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Music Inspired by Jack White’s ‘American Epic’ Documentary Set for Release

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American Epic: The Sessions, chronicling recordings made by Jack White and T Bone Burnett on a vintage ’20s-era recording system, will be released on June 9. Artists like Alabama Shakes, the Avett Brothers, Beck, Elton John, Frank Fairfield, Los Lobos, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Nas, Pokey LaFarge, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens, Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are featured reinterpreting classic songs from the same time frame.

The Sessions arrives in conjunction with American Epic: The Collection and American Epic: The Soundtrack, which feature archival music from the three-part American Epic documentary. The Collection is a five-CD, 100-song deluxe box set, while The Soundtrack is a single-disc, 15-song anthology. Historical figures like Mississippi John Hurt, the Carter Family, Charley Patton, Jimmie Rodgers, Lead Belly and Robert Johnson are included. Both releases are due on May 12.

The Bernard MacMahon-directed film, which also airs in May on PBS and the BBC, underscores the difficulties that surrounded that period’s pioneering first recordings. The process was powered by a pulley system which gave musicians roughly three minutes to record songs direct to disc before a counterweight hits the floor. The music on these new audio discs is taken directly from similar recordings, with no edits or enhancement.

“The extraordinary music that is the American Epic collection is a reflection of virtually everything we listen to today,” Legacy Recordings president Adam Block said in a news release. “In their breadth of style and subject matter these songs – so meticulously restored, deliberately curated, and then lovingly recreated for the Sessions set – are a glorious reflection and celebration of the greatest characteristic of this nation: our magnificent diversity.”

A triple-LP vinyl version of American Epic: The Sessions is due on June 16. Blu-ray and DVD editions of the documentary, a companion book, and vinyl and digital releases highlighting artists including Lead Belly and Mississippi John Hurt are also set for release. There will be two themed packages focusing on blues and country, as well. Actor Robert Redford served as an executive producer on the project.

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