American Routes makes its WMOT debut Saturday, July 11 at 9 p.m. Every week host Nick Spitzer is our music expeditionary and together we examine the American experience through music. Seemingly divergent and discordant musical traditions are explored revealing the rich tapestry of American life. “I feel like in the songs and stories that people are the narratives of both, you know, tragedy and triumph or comedy, and sorrow. And the styles reflect people's ability to listen, to sing, to dance, to dance in the street or in the dance hall. To go out and have a drink, you know, to worship the Lord, or get various gods. And, so music really allows everything to be represented,” Spitzer passionately proclaims.
Started over 20 years ago when host and producer Nick Spitzer noticed the line-up of musicians playing at the Clinton inaugural parties. He noticed big names like R.E.M., Aretha Franklin, Simon and Garfunkel, sharing the stage with the Johnson Mountain Boys bluegrass band, Mingo Saldivar y los Tremendos Cuatros Espadas, a cappella gospel group the Fairfield Four, and the Badland Singers, performing Lakota Sioux music. Watching the concert unfold it displayed the possibilities of a unified America, with equity and reciprocity.
Spitzer laid out the heart and scope of American Routes when he stated, “pluralism in American life is at the center of democracy, and we're far from perfect,” Spitzer continued, “we've made striving to achieve that more perfect union and part of that is inclusive of all kinds of different people. And, so when you play music, words in music, you're able to tell a narrative of American diversity, and show what it is that unifies people.”
On this week’s episode of American Routes we visit the 2019 French Quarter Festival where we experience Soul Queen Irma Thomas, the late piano patriarch Ellis Marsalis, and the Preservation Hall Brass Band. We also catch the French-Creole jazz of Don Vappie and Evan Christopher, Cajun dance music from Bruce Daigrepont, vaudeville and gospel from Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony, Klezmer-funk fusion from the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars and traditional jazz from Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band.
Cory Martin is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn., writing about movies, music and pop culture.