T Bone Burnett, Robert Redford to Exec Produce 'American Epic' Doc, Movie

Jack White is also presenting the look at 1920s and 1930s music and its influence on contemporary artists.
T Bone Burnett

T Bone Burnett, Robert Redford and White Stripes singer Jack White are executive producing American Epic, a TV documentary series, a feature film and music recordings showcasing American music from the 1920s and 1930s, and how it has influenced today’s music.

The ambitious historical three-part documentary will air this fall on PBS in the U.S. and the BBC in the U.K. and will be followed by a feature film featuring contemporary artists performing the vintage music, including Elton John, Willie Nelson, Nas and Alabama Shakes.

“We captured testimonials from the last living witnesses and direct descendants of American’s musical pioneers,” said one of the filmmakers, Allison McGourty. “This is the last time their story can be told before everyone who was there is gone.”

For the film, McGourty and British filmmaker Bernard MacMahon re-assembled the recording machine used in the period to capture the emerging music. They also used the original microphones, amplifiers and other equipment of that era.

“This is America’s greatest untold story,” said Redford. “It’s an account of the cultural revolution that ultimately united a nation.”

Along with the broadcast, Sony’s Columbia Records will release contemporary performances from the series, and Sony Music Legacy Recordings will put out archival recordings and audio restorations of the period music.

Third Man Records will offer a deluxe-boxed set of vinyl records of the music from the docuseries and film.

PBS International will handle worldwide distribution, and the shows will be available as DVD’s or digital downloads from PBS Distribution.

American Epic,” said MacMahon, “is the story of one of the great moments in American history — when the voices of working people, minorities and rural people throughout the country were first heard, and how the discovery of these artists forever changed the sound of American popular music and introduced new genres such as R&B, rock and country. It celebrates American technological innovation, diversity and freedom of speech.”

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