"Performances so good you can hardly listen without thinking of how close each recording is to not existing at all."
- Greil Marcus, The Village Voice -
Music from The American Epic Sessions
The American Epic Sessions Original Motion Picture Soundtrack features an all-star roster of contemporary artists paying tribute to the great artists of the past.
In the Roaring Twenties, music scouts held groundbreaking recording sessions across America. The music was recorded with a single microphone, direct to wax discs on a weight-driven lathe: each record was limited to three minutes, and there were no opportunities to fix or overdub the results. Ninety years later, leading artists from a broad range of musical genres including Nas, Alabama Shakes, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Jack White, Taj Mahal, Ana Gabriel, Pokey LaFarge, Beck, Ashley Monroe and Steve Martin, all test their talents against the rigors of the last surviving 1920s recording system.
In this beautifully filmed musical feature directed by Bernard MacMahon, they leapt at the opportunity to record on the machine that brought the world into the modern era.
Engineer Nicholas Bergh reassembled this recording system from original parts scavenged from around the globe and it is now the only one left in the world. Remembered for the challenges and immediacy of its direct-to-disc production, this process was sometimes called "catching lightning in a bottle" – a tribute to the unique energy it brought out of the artists who met its demands. The extraordinary audio you hear on this album is taken directly from those discs, with no editing or enhancements.
The soundtrack features many additional performances not seen in the film, packaged on two CDs or three vinyl LPs in a trifold jacket.
"This need for greatness within that three-minute take is captured perfectly in the film, moments of silence before a blue light indicates "go" seeping with nail-biting tension and atmosphere. In every case, the results are astounding and the artists always deliver. Oh, and the sound...wonderfully visceral, raw and untampered with, every original recording is layered with character and charisma, the beautifully complex machine always manages to draw the very best from its chosen subject."
- James Moore, Gigwise -
Standard album / Deluxe Disc 1
- Killer Diller by Alabama Shakes
- On The Road Again by Nas
- Candy Man by Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton
- 2 Fingers Of Whiskey by Elton John and Jack White
- The Cuckoo by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
- Like A Rose by Ashley Monroe
- The Only Man Wilder Than Me by Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
- Matrimonial Intentions by Jack White
- One Hour Mama by Rhiannon Giddens
- Mal Hombre by Ana Gabriel
- El Cascabel by Los Lobos
- Closer Walk With Thee by The Avett Brothers
- Fourteen Rivers, Fourteen Floods by Beck
Deluxe Disc 2
- Nobody's Dirty Business by Bettye LaVette
- St. Louis Blues by Pokey Lafarge
- High Water Everywhere (part 2) by Taj Mahal
- One Mic by Nas
- Pretty Saro by Rhiannon Giddens
- Jubilee by Ashley Monroe and The Americans
- Tous les Matins by The Lost Bayou Ramblers
- When I Woke Up this Morning by Bettye LaVette
- If The River Was Whiskey by Frank Fairfield
- Stealin Stealin by Raphael Saadiq
- Jordan am a Hard Road to Travel by The Avett Brothers
- Sail Away Ladies by The Americans
- Tomi Tomi by The Hawaiians
- Last Kind Words by Christine Pizzuti
- Come On In My Kitchen by Stephen Stills
- Mama’s Angel Child by Jack White
- Josephine by Pokey LaFarge
- Hilo Hanakahi by The Hawaiians
- Old Fashioned Love by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard