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Published: 2017/05/11

PBS Shares American Epic Clip of Jack White and Nas Covering 1920s Blues Song

Next week, PBS will premiere it’s three-part American Epic, a documentary chronicling the rich roots of American music, and a clip from the film was shared via Rolling Stone today, showing a studio performance of the Memphis Jug Band’s 1920s blues tune “On the Road Again” featuring Jack White and rapper Nas.

In the clip, Nas likens the subjects of traditional blues songs to those of modern rap. “These guys are talking about women carrying guns, protecting their honor, chasing down some woman who’s done them dirty. This is not high-society black folks,” he says. “This is the down-under, street, wild black folks that they’re singing about. And it’s the same as today…It just goes to show me that rapping is a natural, poetic thing. It’s always been here. As long as there was English and black people, there was rap.”

American Epic, which was helmed by executive producers White, T Bone Burnett and Robert Redford and director Bernard MacMahon, focuses on the early era of American music, when record companies traveled around the country with a recording machine in search of music and culture. The documentary oversaw a recreation of one of those machines, none of which survive to today, for recording sessions with modern artists like White and Nas, plus Willie Nelson, Beck, Alabama Shakes, Avett Brothers, Los Lobos, Merle Haggard, Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, Rhiannon Giddens and many more.

Two American Epic soundtracks will be released via White’s Third Man Records tomorrow, May 12, featuring restored songs from early bands like the Memphis Jug Band, The Carter Family, with the extended Collection version including 100 restored tracks. American Epic: The Sessions, out June 9, will feature the reimagined modern recordings by the above artists.

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