American Epic: Jack White, Robert Redford & Friends Recount The Birth of Modern Music in New Series

Modern culture could not be more removed from the challenges and limitations of the 1920s, but within the scope of the American recording industry, it was a time of kaleidoscopic variety of folk, blues, country and ethnic songs by acts that are now cited as direct influences by the biggest stars in music today. But to most, the technology surrounding the music and its recording process remains a mystery of seemingly Flintstone-era innovation. 

Related: Jack White Secretly Bought Elvis’ First Recording

The three-part historical documentary follows the trail of record company talent scouts from the late 1920s as they toured America with a recording machine to capture the raw expression of an emerging culture, whose recordings would lead to the development of Blues, Country, Gospel, Hawaiian, Cajun, and Folk music. 


Of course, Jack White is taking the historical celebration to new levels, with accompanying American Epic companion music releases of archival recordings featuring groundbreaking audio restoration of original 1920s and 1930s recordings. The American Epic Sessions contemporary performance recordings will be made available from Third Man Records, with a deluxe vinyl box set produced, designed and released by White.

For The American Epic Sessions, the filmmakers have re-assembled the recording machine that allowed America to first hear itself. They have replicated the atmosphere of America’s seminal 1920s field recordings down to the smallest detail, with top American artists recording straight to wax, using all the original microphones, amplifiers, and other equipment from that era. This is the first time that any performer has been able to use this machinery for over 80 years.

Led by producers Jack White and T Bone Burnett, today’s legends are given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to relive the experience of the founding mothers and fathers, their idols, and remake the music that changed America and changed the world. The sessions feature performances by Alabama Shakes, The Americans, The Avett Brothers, Beck, Frank Fairfield, Ana Gabriel, Rhiannon Giddens, Merle Haggard, Bobby Ingano, Elton John, Auntie Geri Kuhia, Pokey LaFarge, Bettye LaVette, Los Lobos, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Taj Mahal, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Fred Martin and The Levite Camp, Ashley Monroe, Nas, Willie Nelson, Charlie Kaleo Oyama, Blind Boy Paxton, Raphael Saadiq, and Jack White.