Jack White and T Bone Burnett invite today’s greatest artists to test their skills against the long-lost machine that recorded their musical idols and forebears. The producers have, over a decade rebuilt, a 1920s recording system, timed by a weight-driven system of clockwork gears. Stripped of the comforts and security of modern technology, Nas, Elton John, Alabama Shakes, Steve Martin Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, are among the artists who have three minutes and one chance to get their music etched into a revolving wax disc, before the weight hits the floor. The results are career defining performances and the very definition of "Lighting In A Bottle".
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At the height of the Roaring Twenties, music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology set out across America to capture the breadth of American music and discover the artists that would shape our world. The recordings they made of all the ethnic groups of America democratized the nation and gave a voice to everyone. It was the first time America heard itself. As told by music pioneers, their families and eyewitnesses, we travel back in time to the “Big Bang” of modern popular music with the Carter Family, Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band. Musicians featured: The Carter Family, Memphis Jug Band, Charlie Musselwhite, Jack White, Nas, and Taj Mahal. Narrated by Robert Redford.
From the sanctified shout of the gospel church to the coal mines of West Virginia to the cotton fields of Mississippi, music provided relief from tough lives and hard times. New rhythms were born in the echoes of stomping feet, the bite of pick-axes and the ambling gait of tired mules. Almost a century later, the quest for singers remembered only as vague names on battered shellac discs brings those stories back to life. Musicians featured: Elder J.E. Burch, Dick Justice, the Williamson Brothers and Curry, Frank Hutchison, Howlin’ Wolf, Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Lockwood Jr., Honeyboy Edwards, Homesick James, and Taj Mahal. Narrated by Robert Redford.
Exotic cultures spanning America are captured on record for the first time - inventing new instruments and new cultural identities as disparate voices harmonize in a musical melting pot. The myriad threads of America’s musical tapestry include Hopi priests traveling to Washington to defend their sacred snake dance; an 11-year-old Hawaiian boy who invents the steel guitar; a teenage Tejana shaking the border with a ferocious feminist tango learned from a gum wrapper; the fightingest frères on the bayou turning a lament for a pretty blonde into the Cajun national anthem; and a gentle Delta farmer who sings a nostalgic song of his hometown and inspires the greatest rediscovery of the ’60s folk revival. Musicians featured: the Hopi Indian Chanters, Joseph Kekuku, Lydia Mendoza, the Breaux Frères, Mississippi John Hurt, Taj Mahal, Cyril Pahinui, and Louis Michot. Narrated by Robert Redford.
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