In October 2010, multiple-Grammy and Oscar-winning producer T Bone Burnett organized an impressive group of musicians, dubbed The Speaking Clock Revue, and joined with Participant Media for concerts benefiting arts education. The Speaking Clock Revue was recorded at the Beacon Theater in New York, and featured a house band made up of musicians from many Burnett-produced recordings and led by music director and guitarist Marc Ribot. The resulting album contains 11 previously unreleased performances by Elton John and Leon Russell, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Gregg Allman, Ralph Stanley, Jeff Bridges, Neko Case, Yim Yames, Punch Brothers, Karen Elson, and The Secret Sisters.
Burnett was inspired to do the fundraising concerts after attending an early screening of Participant's documentary Waiting for "Superman," from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, It Might Get Loud), which focused on the troubled state of public education in the U.S., following a handful of promising students through a U.S. public school system and offering creative new approaches to education reform. Proceeds from the sale of the album benefit arts and music education in public schools.