It’s Fourth of July, and we dig into the archives for the roots of American Routes. It all began with a series of Independence Day concerts held annually at the Washington Monument before the fireworks show on the National Mall and featured the best of American vernacular musical culture. We’ll sample from nearly a decade’s worth of concerts, highlighting spectacular stage performances by the Staple Singers, Tito Puente, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, New Orleans Tuxedo Brass and more. It’s Musical Stars & Cultural Stripes: American Roots Independence Day Revisited.
Chuck Mead, co-founder of the legendary Nashville country rock band, BR549 tells tales of being born into a Kansas family of musicians with their own radio show and infiltrating his way into a whole new Nashville underground music, bar and dance scene. Then, conversation with Alice Gerrard, musician, advocate for old time music and known for her collaboration with West Virginia native Hazel Dickens as a rare female bluegrass duo in the 1960s. Plus music from Bob Dylan, Wanda Jackson, The Balfa Brothers and Johnny Shines.
Sacred steel guitarist Robert Randolph has gathered together the leading players of the genre for a 2013 recording, paying tribute to the past, and covering tunes outside the cannon. We’ll speak with him and one of his fellow Slide Brothers, Calvin Cooke. Then a conversation with the late musical modernist Yusef Lateef about his mentors and inspirations.
Yusef Lateef photo by David Redfern
It’s Blueswomen, Jazzmen, African roots and branches. Chicago blues singer Shemekia Copeland‘s father, the late blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, brought her into his music as a child. As an adult, she found new ways to use blues to express her perspective. We’ll hear from some of Shemekia’s heroes including Etta James, Ruth Brown, Alberta Hunter and Big Mama Thornton. Then a conversation and performance by Boston-based Mandinka balafon player Balla Kouyaté and music inspired by and from the continent of Africa from Randy Weston, Miriam Makeba and the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Shemekia Copeland photo by Mike White