The American Epic Sessions, directed by Bernard MacMahon, has been nominated for a Primetime EMMY® for Outstanding Musical Direction. The highly acclaimed musical/documentary features Nas, Jack White, Elton John, Alabama Shakes, Steve Martin, Taj Mahal and many other legendary artists recording live direct-to-disc on the first ever electrical recording system from the mid 1920s.
Bernard MacMahon, Duke Erikson from Garbage, Jack White and T Bone Burnett have all been nominated for their work on the film which was 10 years in the making. The independent feature broadcast through PBS is the final part of an award-winning four-part documentary series called American Epic.
“The film series tells how record scouts in the 20s set out across America to record the music of everyday Americans” explains Director Bernard MacMahon, “this was the first time anyone in history had done this and it democratized America by putting all these different people’s thoughts and feelings in everyone’s home.”
The awe-inspiring machine that made these recordings was thought lost for 85 years. Engineer Nicholas Bergh of Endpoint Audio Labs in Los Angeles spent a decade restoring it from original parts scavenged from around the globe.
“These contemporary artists had to learn old songs they often didn’t know on the spot,” says Duke Erikson “then arrange them and record them live in one take to a wax disc on a machine that does not respond like anything they’ve heard before. It’s like they’ve never been in a recording studio. We were closely replicating what it must have felt like for the very first artists in the 1920s entering the mysterious and magical new world of the recording studio. The power and energy on these performances is unlike anything I have ever heard before”.
The American Epic Sessions was written by Allison McGourty, Bernard MacMahon and Duke Erikson.
The soundtrack of The American Epic Sessions is available now on double CD and download via Columbia Records and on triple vinyl via Third Man Records HERE. The American Epic Sessions is currently streaming on PBS.