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Baton Rouge bluesman Henry Gray, composer of “I’m a Lucky, Lucky Man,” plays piano and tells tales of life’s downs and ups from humble beginnings to reknown as a musician. Guitarist and singer John Hammond Jr. was born into an urbane East Coast family with music business connections, but chose the country blues as a way of life. He speaks about his travels and fortunes as a musician, and his recent collaboration with Tom Waits. Plus we visit with the fortune teller, light a candle, and ask you to listen for the luckiest music mix in the world.


The jazz, klezmer and funk clarinetist Don Byron talks about the classical elements in his new record titled “A Fine Line: Arias and Lieder”. You’ll also hear a profile of Raymond Scott, one of the great unknown composers and inventors of the 20th century. Scott set the template for the music in Looney Tunes cartoons, and went on to develop some of the first electronic instruments.


American Routes belts it out in celebration of big voices. We’ll sample three from across the musical board: the eerie smoothness of Little Jimmie Scott, an 89-year-old jazz singer who’s recently been rediscovered; the crooning of country star Ray Price; and the gritty shout of Chicago blueswoman Koko Taylor.


American Routes poses the question: “What is cool?” A style, a state of mind, the perfect horn riff, just chillin’? Some guests from the past year offer their answers, including Merle Haggard, Yo La Tengo, McCoy Tyner, T-Bone Burnett and Ray Charles. All backed up, of course, by our “cool” music mix (depicted: clarinet player Don Byron and Yale art historian of “coolness” Robert Farris Thompson).