Airing June 6, 2017 on PBS in the United States, “THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS” directed by Bernard MacMahon, is a feature-length film showcasing an all-star roster of contemporary artists, led by Jack White and T Bone Burnett, replicating a 1920s recording session and paying tribute to the great artists of the past.
For the film, the American Epic 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 this soundtrack is taken directly from the discs they were recorded to, with no editing or enhancements.
The soundtrack features many additional performances not seen in the film. Featuring: 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, Stephen Stills, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Nas, Pokey LaFarge, Christine Pizzuti, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Taj Mahal, Jack White, and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.