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Jack White Premieres ‘American Epic’ Documentary at Sundance, Avett Brothers Perform

Jack White / Avett Brothers
Jo McCaughey / Republic

In the spring of last year, we learned Jack White, record producer T Bone Burnett and director-actor Robert Redford had teamed up on an ambitious documentary American Epic chronicling the birth of music and its proliferation across the U.S. The trio gathered at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, last night (Jan. 28) for a preview of the film.

White, Burnett and Redford all serve as executive producers for the six-part series, which will debut on PBS this fall. Rolling Stone reports Redford introduced the 45-minute excerpt, saying the film’s subject matter “allowed America to hear itself, telling stories about America itself.”

The film preview explored the careers of influential musicians Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Willie Johnson. Later in the documentary, Burnett, White, Alabama Shakes, Elton John, Nas and more record using the first amplifier, condenser microphone and acetate cutting machine.

Following the preview, White told the audience, “When you get back to Howlin’ Wolf, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson — it basically begins there, and that’s the best it ever was and the best it’s ever going to be.”

Avett Brothers performed after the Sundance preview, delivering their takes on “Jordan Is a Hard Road to Travel” and “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”

“The whole group has an interest in old-time music,” Scott Avett told Rolling Stone. “We perform it in our shows, we perform it on our bus and hotels.”

“I think there is something in people that connects with their soul when they hear acoustic instruments,” Seth Avett added. “It’s not filtered.”

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