The long-running Baton Rouge Blues Festival draws on the Louisiana capital’s definitive musical legacy. This Labor Day, we play live cuts from BRBF’s 2018 festivities: The late harmonica man and singer Lazy Lester revisits the R&B singles he released on Excello Records in the ’50s and ’60s. Guitarist Jimmy “Duck” Holmes plays Bentonia-style blues, which he learned growing up in Mississippi around the family juke joint. Fellow Mississippian Harmonica Bean talks the blues and plays his mouth harp. Cowboy Stew Blues Revue — a supergroup of Lafayette, LA-musicians including blues rocker C.C. Adcock, Cajun accordionist Steve Riley, and guitarist Lil Buck Sinegal of late Zydeco King Clifton Chenier’s band — prove they are more than the sum of their parts. British R&B soul band James Hunter Six roll out club style with great elan. Grammy-winner and son of local legend Tabby Thomas, Chris Thomas King taps into his deep musical roots on blues classics and gospel standards. And younger generation guitarists Troy Turner and Samantha Fish show off their blues chops with inflections of pop and rock.
Click here to view a press release from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, who sponsored the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and underwrote this episode of American Routes.
Some great live performances in and beyond New Orleans. First, from the cavernous Howlin’ Wolf club in the Warehouse District, The Meters perform a set of their bass-heavy funk blended with R&B and Mardi Gras Indian chants. Live from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest, Randy Newman gives his satirical take on Louisiana/American life and politics; while fiddler Doug Kershaw and accordionist Steve Riley talk about bringing Cajun music from the swamp into the mainstream, and play Kershaw’s hit “Louisiana Man”— one of the first songs broadcast from the moon! Then, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks tell how they met at a New Orleans concert, and years later formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band, known for its live recordings of Southern soul-inflected roots rock a la the Allman Brothers. Now married, Susan and Derek talk about their solo careers as well as starting a family and touring band together.
Facing the hot season head on, we hit up juke joints, dancehalls and folk festivals to get our fill of hot licks from blues and bluegrass musicians, oldtimers and newcomers alike. We talk shop with Mississippi Hill Country bluesman Cedric Burnside about playing music alongside his grandfather R.L. Burnside, finding his voice and translating old school sounds for a new generation. Then we head to the Montana Folk Festival to hear the bluegrass bonafides of ShadowGrass and talk with the young Appalachian upstarts about balancing their tour schedule with junior high school. Plus, fife and drum music from Otha Turner & the Afrosippi Allstars, surrealist blues rock a la Captain Beefheart and old-time and rockabilly picking from Doc Watson.
For this special American Routes program, we follow the lives of two giants of jazz: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. From their humble North Carolina beginnings to their triumphs on the world stage, we’ll trace their individual and inspired paths to creativity. And we’ll visit with the musicians who played with the greats, including McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders, and the next generation, TS Monk and Ravi Coltrane.
We hit the open road to hear tales of adventure and woe from honky-tonkers and hobos, train-hoppers and busking bohemians. En route we talk with Washington folk singer Brandi Carlile, who dropped out of high school to cut it as a touring musician, and New Orleans’ Meschiya Lake, about her journey from circus performer to jazz chanteuse. Driving on in search of mythic America, we hear the voices of its discontents: Woody Guthrie, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Wilco and Pops Staples. Plus, we “Ramble On” with Lucinda Williams before coming down with a case of “Travelin’ Blues” from Jimmie Rodgers. By planes, trains and automobiles, we journey across our country’s musical landscape with stories from the road.