American Epic

Two British filmmakers, Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty, and American Producer Duke Erikson have pieced together this extraordinary story set in the late 1920s when record companies toured America with a recording machine and for the first time captured the raw expression of an emerging culture. It democratized music and gave a voice to the poorest in the nation. The filmmakers follow the machine's trail across the United States to rediscover the families whose music was recorded by it, music that would lead to the development of blues, country, gospel, Hawaiian, Cajun and folk music – without which there would be no rock, pop, R&B or hip hop today. Over three episodes the remarkable lives of these seminal musicians are revealed through previously unseen film footage, unpublished photographs, and exclusive interviews with some of the last living witnesses to that era, when the musical strands of a diverse nation first emerged, sparking a cultural revolution whose reverberations are felt to this day.

For American Epic Sessions, the filmmakers have re-assembled the 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. Aided and abetted by 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 American Epic Sessions features 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 & The Levite Camp, Ashley Monroe, Nas, Willie Nelson, Charlie Kaleo Oyama, Blind Boy Paxton, Raphael Saadiq, and Jack White.

Next Episode

Out of the Many, the One

Episode 1x03; May 30, 2017

America's diverse cultures -- including the Hopi tribe, Hawaii's Joseph Kekuku, Mexican-American Lydia Mendoza and the Cajun Breaux Family -- contribute to its musical styles; Mississippi John Hurt's blues inspires musicians.

Previous Episodes

Episode NameAirdateTrailer
1x02: Blood and SoilMay 23, 2017
1x01: The Big BangMay 16, 2017
View full episode list »

Cast