Bella Union Records is excited to announce that Jonathan Wilson's debut solo album, Gentle Spirit, will be released on September 13. Gentle Spirit is not simply the name of the album by songwriter/musician/producer Wilson, it also represents the ethos of the artist himself. Warm, supple melodies etched in layers of stringed instruments and willowy organ motifs accompany his earnest, North Carolinian drawl as he tells tales of humane values lost and found. Wilson produced the record which features Gary Louris, Vetiver's Andy Cabic and Otto Hauser, pedal steeler Josh Grange, Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson and their organist Adam McDougal, Brian Geltner, legendary bassist Gerald Johnson, keyboardist Barry Goldberg and Gary Mallaber, former drummer with the Steve Miller Band and Van Morrison.
Wilson's music is steeped equally in the woodsy contours of his Blue Ridge experiences and the atmospheric guitar reveries of Neil Young and Quicksilver Messenger Service. In fact, Gentle Spirit, an expansive double vinyl set recorded direct to analog tape using Wilson's 1972 console that used to belong to Shelter Records, is remarkably evocative of that golden late '60s, early '70s period when rural and urban sensibilities colluded in producing some of rock's most imperishable recordings. The album features all original Wilson compositions with the exception of his "psyched out" rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Way I Feel." Wilson crafted the album between tours, album producer jobs and the never-ending jam sessions that constituted canyon life. He began tracking in Lauren Canyon, but finished it in his new Five Star Studio in the Echo Park section of LA.
While writing and recording Gentle Spirit, "I was consciously trying to convey a 'dreary day in the canyon,' that was the original concept," admits Wilson. "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."
Although an official release of the album didn't materialize until now, Gentle Spirit has circulated underground on sharpie-labeled CDRs through the hands of a select few members of his friends and family. This hand-to-hand virality has created a certain mystique about the album in a manner consistent with its, and the artist's, character and ideals.
Wilson, a native of Forest City, North Carolina, has been quietly earning a reputation as a musical jack-of-all-trades. He is adept behind the recording console, possesses a luthier's knowledge of all things strummed, and maintains the innate ability to conceptualize an instrument essential to providing the right color to a track in need of a defining detail. Whether producing promising new recording artists like the band Dawes, or collaborating with renowned artists, such as Jackosn Browne, Erykah Badu and Elvis Costello, Wilson, a tall, slim, long-haired presence, provides direction and support as tasty and soulful as anyone in the business today.
Given the popular culture's preoccupation with all things digital, Gentle Spirit draws a line in the proverbial sand; the album was conceived for vinyl. "I would say vinyl is the only real tangible format that contains meaningful value and the only one you can sell to me that retains any value," says Wilson. "To me, that's on both sides of the table, the consumer and the artist. Even as a record collector I've always been vinyl driven. With vinyl, this is when the record sounds the best and when it comes alive. To me, this project and the album represent many things tangible and even more things intangible, those that can only be felt."
Bella Union is also excited to announce that Wilson will be heading overseas to perform a few festival dates with Jackson Browne -- he will be opening for Jackson and also collaborating onstage as part of his band along with the band Dawes. More information on dates, cities, venues, and tickets coming soon.