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Gentle Spirit

by: Jonathan Wilson

Album Artwork

(Bella Union)

Born in North Carolina, Jonathan Wilson moved to California years ago. Wilson's undeniable musical talents have allowed him to work and collaborate with musicians such as Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne, The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson, The Jayhawks' Gary Louris, Jenny Lewis, Barry Goldberg, Dawes, Vetiver, Elvis Costello, The Watson Twins, Benji Hughes and others. Wilson, a multi-instrumentalist, exists as one of this generation's most talented musicians.

Wednesday night jams at Wilson's Laurel Canyon home served as the nucleus for a homegrown 'Canyon' music scene several years ago. Gentle Spirit is the follow-up album to Wilson's brilliant debut release Frankie Ray. Gentle Spirit was recorded on analog and released on vinyl as a double album. Wilson kept busy on various other projects during the recording of these 13 songs.

Wilson began tracking Gentle Spirit in his Laurel Canyon home, but finished the album at his new Five Star Studio in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles. In a recent interview Wilson said this about Gentle Spirit: "I was consciously trying to convey a 'dreary day in the canyon,' that was the original concept. That was what it was supposed to be. I feel like I achieved that. But, you have to remember the album took a long time, the tracking was done a while ago, and there's a distance there that I guess was supposed to happen.

"And it's not hot off the tape machine. Things transpired...I was never in conflict or had a self-imposed timetable around this album. Time went by and things were cool and I never felt anything was on a back burner because it was all sort of my process. I was better served by having the material and album unfold over time."

Gentle Spirit emits a dreamy sonic landscape. A Pacific breeze drifts through these quiet, hallucinatory folk songs. Lush instrumentation braids colorful melodic patterns on this musical tapestry. The album begins with the quiet title track complete with acoustic guitars, piano, drums and a lucid lyrical maze that gives a heavy-lidded sentiment where "love is a melody..."

"Can We Really Party Today" counts as a folk tune that soon transforms into a kaleidoscope of a high and wide musical atmosphere as Wilson sings "Swing me back there to North Carolina/Let me show you where the red tail flies/And broad rivers slowly wind/Honeysuckles on the vine/Follow me down to south Louisiana/Let me show you were the music lies/Swamp music, drink, dance and wine/They never keep it all inside."

"Desert Raven" is a song that circles high above the clouds. The guitar parts on this tune sound reminiscent of Idlewild South sessions, but Wilson's poetic ability allows for another musical dimension. The mystical "Canyon In The Rain" fits any rainy day scenario, which gives this tune such a timeless quality. "Natural Rhapsody" retains an earthy, yet outer space musical magic that acts like a sedative on the listener.

"Ballad of the Pines" serves as the centerpiece song on this collection. It's a beautiful tune that captures Wilson's Appalachian finger-pickin' roots. On this heart-rending gem he sings like a bohemian poet of the highest order:

"Looking for a reason not to stay drunk all the time
Feel my way through the creases of those wrinkled linen sheets of time.
When you wandered off for Mexico leavin, lettin' no one know you'd flown
That's the moment I made a truce between the feather and the goose
Come back speaking Spanish...I don't mind...."

"The Way I Feel" retains a Western echo in the wooden sound that wanders towards the outskirts of a cactus-littered desert. The organic "Don't Give Your Heart To A Rambler" crosses folk and blues music as waves rolling on the beach where distant children and seagulls can be heard in the background. "Woe Is Me", a slow-burning dirge that serves as one of the electric rockers on Gentle Spirit, showcases Wilson's electric six-string spook. 

A quiet acoustic guitar intro commences "Waters Down", a song that might be heard in a soulful church on Sunday morning. "Rolling Universe", a expansive composition, adheres to the spacy structure of this collection. "Magic Everywhere" contains some of Wilson's finest poetry, and the album is worth seeking out just to hear the lyrics on this song that seem to personify Wilson's musical intention.

The ten-minute "Valley of The Silver Moon" closes Gentle Spirit. The song begins with an eerie introduction as if one is about to enter a heart of darkness. Wilson's guitar tone on this closer resembles Cortez The Killer's dance across the water. The musical journey of Gentle Spirit is well worth the trip...

Gentle Spirit hits the streets on September 13th.

James Calemine


The Swampland Jonathan Wilson Interview

Jonathan Wilson's Frankie Ray

Gary Louris: Vagabonds

The Watson Twins: Fire Songs

Jonathan Wilson Travels To Europe with Jackson Browne

related tags

North Carolina,
Mystery and Manners,


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