RadioandMusic
| 14 Dec 2019
Legacy Recordings set to release American Epic Documentary Series Music Collection

MUMBAI: Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, will release American Epic: The Collection, a 5-CD/100 song deluxe box set, and American Epic: The Soundtrack, a single disc anthology of 15 songs featured in the American Epic three-part historical documentary (1LP or 1CD), on Friday, 12 May 2017.

The Soundtrack, each available digitally or as a physical product, lead the way for a series of releases of music associated with the film series American Epic, produced by Allison McGourty, Duke Erikson and Directed by Bernard MacMahon. It will be premiered in the U.S. on PBS on Tuesdays 16, 23 and 30 May at 9 p.m. (check local listings) and in the U.K. on BBC in May.

The American Epic historical documentaries are a journey back in time to the "Big Bang" of modern popular music.

In the 1920s, as radio took over the pop music business, record companies were forced to leave their studios in major cities in search of new styles and markets. Ranging the mountains, prairies, rural villages, and urban ghettos of America, they discovered a wealth of unexpected talent. The recordings they made of all the ethnic groups of America democratised the nation and gave a voice to everyone. Country singers in the Appalachians, Blues guitarists in the Mississippi Delta, Gospel preachers across the south, Cajun fiddlers in Louisiana, Tejano groups from the Texas-Mexico border, Native American drummers in Arizona, and Hawaiian musicians were all recorded. For the first time, a woman picking cotton in Mississippi, a coal miner in Virginia or a tobacco farmer in Tennessee could have their thoughts and feelings heard on records played in living rooms across the country. It was the first time America heard itself.

American Epic: The Collection gathers 100 of these original recordings from the 1920s and 1930s in one five-disc set, restored to unprecedented levels of sonic fidelity. For these releases, compiled by Director Bernard MacMahon, engineer Nicholas Bergh refined a transfer process using a mix of both modern and vintage equipment in order to extract the remarkable resolution from the records that is often missed. This ‘reverse engineering’ approach to the transfer process enabled the restoration team of Grammy Award-winning engineer Peter Henderson, Duke Erikson and Joel Tefteller to get the resulting audio closer to the original performance than ever before.

This is not “remastering,” in the normal sense, but something closer to fine art restoration. The intent is not for people to marvel at the antiquity of these discs, but rather to experience them as vital, immediate performances that speak to us as directly as they did on the day they were recorded—not simply great art for their time, but great art for all times. It includes a 100-page book filled with stunning unpublished photographs, quotes from the artists, their friends and families, lyrics for every song, essays and recording notes. Among the artists included are Mississippi John Hurt, The Carter Family, Charley Patton, Jimmie Rodgers, Lydia Mendoza, Nelstone's Hawaiians, Big Chief Henry's String Band, Robert Johnson and many others.

American Epic: The Soundtrack is a 15-song single disc anthology of songs featured in the American Epic film trilogy. Compiled by Lo-Max Records, it includes restored archival recordings from artists such as Memphis Jug Band, The Carter Family, Charley Patton, Joseph Falcon, Lydia Mendoza and others.

Columbia Records will release American Epic: The Sessions the soundtrack to “The American Epic Sessions” directed by Bernard MacMahon. In “The American Epic Sessions,” the team has reassembled the very first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s and invited Jack White and T Bone Burnett to produce an album of recordings by twenty of today’s greatest artists. In this beautifully filmed musical feature, these artists are given the chance to pass through the portal that brought the world into the modern era.

Engineer Nicholas Bergh has reassembled this recording system from original parts and it is now the only one left in the world. The system consists of a single microphone, a towering six-foot amplifier rack, and a live record-cutting lathe, powered by a weight-driven pulley system of clockwork gears. The musicians have roughly three minutes to record their song direct to disc before the weight hits the floor. In the 1920s, they called this “catching lightning in a bottle.” All the musical performances in this film are live. The audio you hear on the soundtrack is taken directly from the discs they were recorded too, with no editing or enhancements.

American Epic: The Sessions, soundtrack features: Alabama Shakes, The Americans, Ana Gabriel, Ashley Monroe, The Avett Brothers, Beck, Bettye LaVette, Bobby Ingano, Elton John, Frank Fairfield, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, Los Lobos, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Nas, Pokey LaFarge, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Taj Mahal, Jack White, and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

American Epic represents a ten-year odyssey undertaken by director Bernard MacMahon and producers Allison McGourty and Duke Erikson, and audio engineer Nicholas Bergh that involved tracking down countless long forgotten musicians, restoring the music that they recorded and reassembling the technology that created it. Along the way, they brought some of the most important figures in contemporary culture to help them on their quest. Executive producers Jack White, T Bone Burnett and Robert Redford have lent their support to what Redford calls "America's greatest untold story”.

"The extraordinary music that is the American Epic collection is a reflection of virtually everything we listen to today,” said Adam Block, who is the President of Legacy Recordings. "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."

The companion book, American Epic, will be available from 2 May from Touchstone. Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty’s fascinating account, written with the assistance of prize-winning author Elijah Wald, continues the journey of the series with a behind-the-scenes look at the incredible journey across America searching for these recordings and eyewitness accounts. It features additional stories, exclusive never-before-seen photographs, and unearthed artwork. It also contains contributions from many of the musicians who participated, including Taj Mahal, Nas, Willie Nelson, and Steve Martin all of which will reveal a new understanding of America to the world and future generations.

Funding for American Epic is provided by the Anne Ray Foundation, The Family of Mackinley Silverman, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, Pacific Islanders in communications with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Jody and John Arnhold, The V and L Marx Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, and public television viewers.

American Epic will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on 13 June from PBS Distribution; visit shopPBS.org or call 800-PLAY-PBS, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The series will also be available for digital download.

PBS International, the co-production and distribution arm of PBS Distribution, is distributing AMERICAN EPIC to broadcasters and media companies worldwide. Several international broadcasters including BBC (United Kingdom), ARTE/ZDF (France and Germany), Canal Plus (Spain), and Channel 8 (Israel) have already signed on to air the film in their territories.