“American Epic” Film by Redford, Jack White Coming This Fall
Jack White, who’s making quite the run for “legendary” status, has teamed up with a host of notables to produce a documentary film on the origins of the modern music movement titled “American Epic“. Along with White, the film release is being put on by T Bone Burnett and Robert Redford. With a cast of characters involved like that, and the implied glimpse at exclusive remastered recordings and photographs from the era, we’re anxious to get our eyes and ears on this release.
The premise of the film is to trace the roots of contemporary music, from the 20’s through the modern era, by a combination of retracing roots of early music expression, through the advent of phonograph recordings and radio, and into the modern age of Internet. It’s interesting to think back on the early days when emerging record companies would send talent scouts across the small towns of America armed with early versions of tape records to find new musical acts and styles. As the directors say, these young guns “for the first time captured the raw expression of an emerging culture”, and came back with a treasure trove of previously unheard sounds and thinking to be exposed to the world for the first time. Much of musical history is about self-expression, and it’s origins ring true to that common understanding – the songs of the poor and oppressed were generally the only ways they could even talk about these subjects, because free speech wasn’t quite “free” in those days, depending on who and where you might be speaking.
The original movie was created by two British filmmakers, Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty, and American Producer Duke Erikson. They ran through the history and musical travels of the early days, and pieced together a narrative that has the extraordinary power of revealing intersecting threads of musical influence and culture clash.
As a followup companion effort, the team got together and recreated one of the old mechanical direct-to-wax recorders that were used to document these early sounds. With that gear, they invited many contemporary artists to record, and are releasing that as a separately titled “American Epic Sessions” release. Some of the artists included are: 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 & The Levite Camp, Ashley Monroe, Nas, Willie Nelson, Charlie Kaleo Oyama, Blind Boy Paxton, Raphael Saadiq, and Jack White.
The documentary will be a four-part series that will run on PBS and BBC in the fall.