It’s been over two years since it was announced that Jack White would be teaming up with T Bone Burnett and acclaimed actor Robert Redford to produce the upcoming American Epic documentary project. In the time since then, they’ve worked hard on putting together a passion project on the history of early sound recording in the form of a television series, a film, a soundtrack and studio performances that audio and music fans should love.
On Tuesday, the first trailer for the three-part documentary series was released, showing clips of the project’s participants including White, Elton John, Willie Nelson and more, as they tell the story of pioneers in the craft of recorded music. As seen in the clip below, the project dives into the early forms of technology that was used to record sound, and more importantly, the first people who used it.
“In American Epic we can examine how important the fact is that when phonograph records were invented, for the first time ever, women, minorities, poor rural men and even children were given the opportunity to say whatever they wanted in song, for the whole world to hear, shockingly without much censorship,” White said about the project in a statement. “What they were allowed to say on phonograph recordings, they were not allowed to speak in public or in person. That is an astounding thought.”
Beck, Nas, Alabama Shakes and even the late Merle Haggard all took part in the project. The series will air every Tuesday on PBS here in the U.S. and via BBC in the U.K. starting May 16. The film portion of the project will air on June 6.
A companion soundtrack containing a 100-song box set and archival recordings will also be released on Legacy Recordings, while White’s Third Man Records will be releasing the Sessions soundtrack with selections of archival recordings on vinyl. Columbia Records will also put out the American Epic Sessions studio performances, which were recorded by guests featured throughout the series.