This Depression-Era Blues Song Got An Exciting, Contemporary Makeover Thanks To Jack White And Nas

Deputy Music Editor
05.11.17

PBS is on the verge of releasing a brand new documentary titled American Epic about the early-20th-century American recording industry. More specifically it’s about the people like Alan Lomax who went out deep into the rural parts of the country and pulled out some of the most haunting and durable songs in the American musical canon. As part of the show, PBS is also bringing together a collection of big name artists to help revive some of the songs that they’ve featured, names like Willie Nelson and Beck.

For the Memphis Jug Band’s 1928 single “On The Road Again,” the show’s producers enlisted one of the greatest blues guitarists of the 21st Century, Jack White as well as one of of the greatest MCs to ever pick up a microphone, Nas, to hit the studio and give the song a fresh take. For Nas, the similarities between the Memphis Jug Band and contemporary artists was eye-opening. “These guys are talking about women, carrying guns, protecting their honor, chasing after some woman who’s done them dirty, this is not high society black folks, this is the down under, street, wild black folk,” he said. “It’s the same as rap music today.’

You can listen to Nas and Jack White’s rendition of “On The Road Again” above and the original below.

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