PBS and BBC Arena are partnering on “American Epic,” a three-part historical documentary that traces the birth of modern music, going all the way back to the culture renaissances that shaped recorded music in the United States. (Trailer below.)
Executive-produced by T Bone Burnett, Robert Redford and Jack White, “American Epic” settles in the 1920s when record companies scouted new talent in the US and will wend its way through the development of the blues, country, gospel, Hawaiian, Cajun and folk music that spawned today’s rock, pop, R&B and hip-hop.
The three episodes will feature previously unseen film footage, unpublished photographs and exclusive interviews. And the docu-series will be followed by “The American Epic Sessions,” a feature-length film with performances by contemporary musicians working with the techniques of yesteryear, with American artists recording “straight to wax” using the microphones, amplifiers and equipment of the 1920s. Performers include Beck, Elton John, Los Lobos, The Alabama Shakes, Taj Mahal, Nas, Willie Nelson, Jack White and more.
In addition to the broadcast, set for the US and UK this Fall, “American Epic” will include companion music releases from Columbia Records and Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings with archival recordings and audio restorations of 1920s and 1930s recordings by Lo-Max Films, Nick Bergh and Peter Henderson. Third Man Records will release a deluxe box of vinyl records.
The series will be directed by Bernard MacMahon and writer-producers Allison McGourty and Duke Erikson.