Next week, PBS and the BBC will begin airing American Epic, a three-part music documentary from Jack White, T Bone Burnett, and Robert Redford. The series is described as “a journey across time to the birth of modern music,” back when record company scouts would tour the US with recording equipment to capture emerging blues, folk, and country artists in their most raw form. The voyage will conclude with the June 6th release of The American Epic Sessions, a film featuring artists like Elton John, Willie Nelson, Beck, Alabama Shakes, Merle Haggard, and more recording on the same machines used back in the 1920s.
Today, PBS has shared footage of one of those recording sessions. The preview finds Nas discussing how songs like the Memphis Jug Band’s 1928 single “On The Road Again” were essentially the starting point of rap. “It just goes to show me that rapping is a natural, poetic thing,” he says. “It’s always been there, long as there was English and black people, there was rap.”
Interspersed with his discussion is footage of the rapper, White, and a band of musicians recording an updated, hip-hop take on “On the Road Again”. Check out the video above.
American Epic will air for three consecutive Tuesdays beginning May 16th. In anticipation, Legacy Recordings is releasing the companion soundtrack, as well as a 100-song box set. Columbia Records will release the American Epic Sessions studio performances, while White’s own Third Man Records plans to release the Sessions soundtrack and selections of the archival recordings on vinyl. The Legacy and Columbia releases are set for May 12th, while Third Man’s LPs are due out June 16th.
Watch a trailer for the series below.