For Independence Day weekend we’ll stomp the blues with live performances from the 2016 Baton Rouge Blues Festival … featuring swamp blues, Mississippi Delta blues, hill country blues, and the blues rocked out. Artists include Howlin’ Wolf’s pianoman Henry Gray, harp player Lazy Lester, Kenny Neal and family, Slim Harpo’s right-hand guitar man James “Chicken Scratch” Johnson, songmaker Luke Winslow King, New Orleans soul funkster Walter “Wolfman” Washington and R.L. Burnside’s grandson, Kent Burnside. Plus a visit to Teddy’s Juke Joint nearby on Highway 61 in Zachary, LA. May the Fourth be with you!
American Routes heralds our nation’s greatest roving troubadour and social commentator, Woody Guthrie. We’ll visit with friends and relatives who share tales of Guthrie’s trials and triumphs, from Okemah, Oklahoma to Coney Island, New York. Guthrie’s children, Nora and Arlo, reflect on their father’s life, scholar Guy Logsdon discusses Guthrie’s Dust Bowl days and Pete Seeger shares the backstory to Woody’s anthem for the “down and outers.” Plus music and memories from Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Moses Asch, Bob Dylan and so many others.
Elemental blues, jazz and country from two performers with deep roots and cosmic connections. In the ’60s, young Tracy Nelson left the midwest for psychedelic San Francisco to front the R & B rock band, Mother Earth. Now deep in the Tennessee hills, she’s looking back to country sounds. From South Carolina to deep space, guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer takes us on his journey from childhood gospel to free form harmolodic jazz with Ornette Coleman. Blood now brings it all to bear on a brutal, personal version of the blues.
This week, we talk to the founding members of the Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. Justin Robinson, Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons started playing music together under the tutelage of legendary black old-time fiddler, Joe Thompson in his backyard shed. The Chocolate Drops came together to carry on the old time and country traditions from the Piedmont region in the Carolinas, but they wanted to do more than just play. They wanted to show their audiences that African American music finds its roots in genres beyond blues and jazz. Then we delve into the archives for our classic conversation with the late, great Ray Charles – and pianist Johnnie Johnson tells us about the surprising origins of Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene.”
Conversation with and music from Van Dyke Parks, an eclectic, popular classicist known as a composer and keyboardist, arranger and producer, with a great love of calypso and Hawaiian cowboy music. The man behind the curtain for so many artists, the Hollywood-based Parks is well-regarded for writing and studio work with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, Ry Cooder, Lowell George and Randy Newman, among many. He recently became a fan of pianist Tom McDermott, a St. Louis-born, New Orleans-dwelling and Brazilian-influenced vernacular virtuoso. Parks thought enough of McDermott’s recorded repertoire to collect and reissue some of it as Bamboula—so named for the composition by the mutually-admired New Orleans 19th century pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Tom McDermott, also a fan of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Professor Longhair and James Booker, plays in his parlor for us.