American Routes joins with two record men this week to study the means of production in jazz and country. Michael Cuscuna, founder of Mosaic Records, talks about his reissuing of lavish collector’s sets of jazz from Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Count Basie and many more. Al Hawkes joins us from the wilds of Maine where he’s been making old-time country, bluegrass and rockabilly records since 1955—some of his own, some on his independent Event Records label.
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 50’s 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 the earliest blues and minstrel tunes to clawhammer bluegrass and forward to newgrass, the banjo has been a part of American music. This week we visit with New Orleans Creole jazzman Don Vappie and hear how the instrument is used in New Orleans traditional jazz. And feel the zeitgeist as San Diego-based Nickel Creek come by for a live set and talk about building onto their bluegrass base and moving beyond.
Easter weekend is a time for reflection and family, and our guests certainly fit the bill. Donald Harrison, Jr. is a saxophone player and New Orleans native now based in New York. Harrison’s ties to New Orleans run deep, musically and culturally. His work has long echoed strains of Mardi Gras Indian chants and street beats—not surprisingly as his late father was Big Chief of the Guardians of the Flame tribe, a position Donald Jr. has since assumed. Wendell and Sherman Holmes, plus longtime friend Popsy Dixon, make up the Holmes Brothers, a vocal group best known for putting their personal stamp on blues, gospel, country, pop and more. The brothers join us to talk about the transition from Christ Church, Virginia to New York and back again to home and family.