The AMERICAN EPIC historical documentaries are a journey back in time to the "Big Bang" of modern popular music.
In the 1920s, as radio took over the pop music business, record companies were forced to leave their studios in major cities in search of new styles and markets. Ranging the mountains, prairies, rural villages, and urban ghettos of America, they discovered a wealth of unexpected talent. The recordings they made of all the ethnic groups of America democratized the nation and gave a voice to everyone. Country singers in the Appalachians, Blues guitarists in the Mississippi Delta, Gospel preachers across the south, Cajun fiddlers in Louisiana, Tejano groups from the Texas Mexico border, Native American drummers in Arizona, and Hawaiian musicians were all recorded. For the first time, a woman picking cotton in Mississippi, a coalminer in Virginia or a tobacco farmer in Tennessee could have their thoughts and feelings heard on records played in living rooms across the country. It was the first time America heard itself.
On June 16th, Third Man Records will release AMERICAN EPIC: The Sessions on 180 gram vinyl, which you can pre-order here, this is the soundtrack to “THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS” directed by Bernard MacMahon. In “THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS,” the team has reassembled the very first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s, and invited Jack White and T Bone Burnett to produce an album of recordings by twenty of today’s greatest artists. In this beautifully filmed musical feature, these artists are given the chance to pass through the portal that brought the world into the modern era.
Engineer Nicholas Bergh has reassembled this recording system from original parts and it is now the only one left in the world. The system consists of a single microphone, a towering six-foot amplifier rack, and a live record-cutting lathe, powered by a weight-driven pulley system of clockwork gears. The musicians have roughly three minutes to record their song direct to disc before the weight hits the floor. In the 1920s, they called this “catching lightning in a bottle.” All the musical performances in this film are live. The audio you hear on the soundtrack is taken directly from the discs they were recorded to, with no editing or enhancements.
AMERICAN EPIC: The Sessions, soundtrack features: Alabama Shakes, The Americans, Ana Gabriel, Ashley Monroe, The Avett Brothers, Beck, Bettye LaVette, Bobby Ingano, Elton John, Frank Fairfield, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, Los Lobos, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Nas, Pokey LaFarge, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Taj Mahal, Jack White, and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
“THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS” airs in the U.S. on PBS Tuesday, June 6 at 8 p.m. (check local listings) and in the U.K. on BBC in June.
In addition to The Sessions, on June 16, Third Man Records is also slated to release 180 gram 12" audiophile vinyl versions of AMERICAN EPIC: The Carter Family, AMERICAN EPIC: Memphis Jug Band, AMERICAN EPIC: Mississippi John Hurt, AMERICAN EPIC: Blind Willie Johnson and AMERICAN EPIC: Lead Belly, as well as thematic collections including AMERICAN EPIC: Blues and AMERICAN EPIC: Country.
PRE-ORDERS ARE AVAILABLE NOW