Join us for a two-hour visit with John Prine as he walks us through his catalog and his life—from urban Illinois backwards to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. For over 35 years the singer and guitarist has written and performed songs which present a slightly off-kilter and darkly humorous look at working class America. We’ll also talk agitprop with the man who wrote Vietnam-era protest songs like “Take the Star Our of the Window” and “Sam Stone,” and environmental broadsides such as “Paradise.” There’s also performances of Prine’s songs by others and more in this two-hour visit with one of America’s leading songwriters.
It’s time to go back to school! Many of the lessons learned in school are valuable, but more often people carry their memories of great teachers, friends and growing up to think for themselves. Likewise, much of America’s greatest music — blues, jazz, country, Cajun — was passed on informally from master players, in clubs, at jam sessions or dances. We’ll visit two special professors who really believe in teaching the musical vernacular both formally and informally. Ray Charles shows kids how to play the blues at his Los Angeles studio, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis tutors New Orleans high school students in jazz technique and appreciation. We’ll also talk to the all-teen Cajun band from French Louisiana, Feufollet, about why they learned to play traditional music. Plus, tune in to children’s songs and back-to-school anthems from Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson and Aretha Franklin.
From shouters to chanteuses, R&B melisma to the high lonesome sound of bluegrass, this week we bring you some of the biggest voices on the American soundscape. Neo-retro vocalist k.d. lang comes by to talk about her loves and influences from ’50s country to smoky lounge music. New Orleans singer Topsy Chapman tells us how a stint as a singing waitress on Bourbon Street and growing up with 15 siblings led her to an international career as a song stylist.
From Pretty Polly and Poor Ellen Smith to Lil’ Liza Jane and Old Joe Clark, this American Routes deals with the nomenclature of music. We’ll chat with a man many of you might know and learn what it’s like to grow up as John Smith. Plus, the San Antonio native and leader of the barnstorming 1950’s band Mando & the Chili Peppers tells us how he took a turn from Tejano music to rock n’ roll and ended up in Las Vegas with a stage name that stuck. And learn more about Jody, that shadowy figure that’s got your girl and gone.