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Music Review: American Routes Compilation

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I’ve heard every one of the American Routes shows that this two-cd set excerpts – at least twice – and I can truthfully say, I never turned off any one of them. Sure, there were times that I wasn’t a particular fan of the spotlight guests, but I swear, Nick Spitzer’s narration could make an interesting case of paint drying. You’re forced to listen! The music is the show, sure, but Nick makes it what it is, getting rave write-ups from The Wall Street Journal on down the line.

The first CD starts with one of the true icons of American Modern Jazz: The Wizard of 5/4 Time, Dave Brubeck. And sandwiching the Antique Radio Museum is Tom Waits, the Bad Boy of the Piano Bar. Can you get much farther apart? Sure can! The next two musicians are Tito Puente and Rufus Thomas.

I could go on but you get the point: American Routes goes all over America, just as America’s routes go. And it’s not just music in this show. The interviews, which are more like two guys reminiscing over some Camus, one of France’s finest Cognacs, are not your usual ‘Where did the idea for this song come from?’ questions. For example, Brubeck talks of his days calf-roping, music school, the Iron Curtain and Satchmo, along with several other subjects that you won’t get near in any other interviews.

His subjects and guests run the gamut, too, from Jerry Wexler to Joe Bussard; Bobby Rush and Sonny Landreth share another show; another guest is Fats Domino, and to somewhat round out the New Orleans coverage, Nick also talks with a Voodoo queen, an anthropologist, and a Creole artist. [Note: These guests are not on this CD-set.]

Also included in this set are a surf show, “Arabs and Jews in Jazz and Blues,” Nina Simone, Dolly Parton, Jerry Garcia, Feufollet [a teenage Cajun band], and Tremé Sidewalk Steppers and Rebirth Brass Band Second Line. How’s that for variety? Puts those 1950s variety shows to shame, doesn’t it?

If you like American music – any type of American music, you’ll love this show.  American Routes is a weekly radio show that’s syndicated on a number of radio stations across the US and, in some cases, on the Web. Check the show’s Website for full information and details.

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About Lou Novacheck