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Grab some popcorn and take your seat. American Routes is going to the movies! Hear some of the best music ever put to film — soundtracks and scores from Coal Miner’s Daughter to Standing in the Shadows of Motown, from Miles Davis to the Rolling Stones. We’ll talk with director Spike Lee about the sonic textures used in his films – including his ode to New York, 25th Hour. Plus, a visit with legendary composer Elmer Bernstein, whose over 400 scores for film and television include The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Far From Heaven. Cajun filmmaker Glenn Pitre from the bayou town Cut Off, LA talks about Cajun music and culture in films from Evangeline (1929) and Louisiana Story (1946) to The Big Easy (1992) and his own recent film, The Scoundrel’s Wife.


It’s that time of year again in New Orleans — out come the beads, the king cakes, and the music! Our annual Carnival special includes a visit with the Rebirth Brass Band, a quintessential part of so many parades this time of year. Mardi Gras sounds and stories from Mobile, Alabama; their celebration is actually older than New Orleans! And of course all your favorite Carnival time tunes, in versions new and old.


In this Valentine’s special we explore the various types of love expressed in song—from puppy love to animal attraction, part-time love to enduring love, breaking up and making up and everything in between. We’re joined on our quest by three performers well acquainted with the genre: Randy Newman, author of love songs both ironic and authentic; Rev. Al Green, a man who has addressed love both sacred and secular throughout his career; and Joan Baez, who talks about her favorite love songs—some written for her. Plus, an irresistible mix of love songs including Fats Domino, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and more that you can’t help but fall for.


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).