Jack White always has something up his sleeve, and this one is a biggie for those of us that count ourselves as music history nerds. White has teamed up with legendary producer T Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and Robert Redford to produce an upcoming music documentary plus multiple album release documenting the earliest recording technology used in the 1920s to make the very first recordings of the diverse music of America. The three-part documentary American Epic will air on PBS and BBC America this fall.
The moment in history that the film seeks to document is hugely important to American music and culture. With the wax recording machine, for the first time recordings of music could be made and styles from different regions began to mingle more than ever before. The impoverished and minorities, who were creating the rich body of folk, country, and blues music that modern popular music would not exist without, were given a voice via their art. Record company executives toured the country with the machine to record these sounds with often not-so-pure morals, but the recordings still gave these people a microphone and the songs a way to last aside from oral tradition. “This is America’s greatest untold story,” Redford says.
Accompanying the film will be music releases featuring not only some of the early recordings from the 1920s and 1930s made on the forgotten wax recording machine, but also new recordings from an inimitable team of modern musicians that White rounded up to record on his recreation of the archaic and beautiful technology. Yes, White perhaps predictably went and rebuilt the thing at Third Man. The sessions recorded for the film and music releases include White, Alabama Shakes, Beck, The Avett Brothers, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Taj Mahal, Nas, and many more. Of course ,Third Man is planning an exclusive vinyl release of the material. You can check out the trailer for the documentary after the jump.