Gentle Spirit

Gentle Spirit
Studio album by Jonathan Wilson
Released September 13, 2011 (2011-09-13)
Recorded 2008-2010
Genre Folk, psychedelic
Length 78:19
Label Bella Union
Producer Jonathan Wilson

Gentle Spirit is the first official studio album released by Los Angeles artist Jonathan Wilson. It was released in the United Kingdom and Europe on August 8, 2011 and in the United States on September 13, 2011 on Bella Union and received the #4 spot on Mojo Magazine's 2011 Best of Albums of the Year.[1] The album was recorded at Wilson's former studio in Laurel Canyon and mixed at his new studio in Echo Park.


Wilson crafted the album at his former studio, Canyonstereo, in Laurel Canyon between tours, album producer jobs, recording sessions and jams,[2] a period in which Wilson collaborated with the likes of Elvis Costello, Chris Robinson, Phil Lesh, Erykah Badu, Benmont Tench, Gary Louris, Vetiver, Dawes and many other notable musicians.

While the album was started a few years ago, Wilson chose not to release Gentle Spirit until 2011. As a result, Gentle Spirit traded among Wilson's friends and family on sharpie-labeled CDRs for several years and in the process, built a large underground following that included many notable musicians, including Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson and Elvis Costello. As journalist Martin Aston notes in his BBC Music review, "Wilson may be a new name to us but to the cognoscenti of America's alt-roots scene he's a mover and shaker."[3]

Not until Wilson was introduced to Simon Raymonde and Bella Union, did he decide to officially release the album. When The Sun asked Wilson why he signed to Bella Union, Wilson answered, "Because they are the greatest label in the world. They're the only label I've ever come across that truly felt like a family."[4]

The album's underlying theme has to do with the words of the title track, "Gentle Spirit", about the desensitization caused by daily exposure to mankind's despair. Gentle Spirit discusses taking the time to give humanity a reverence-laden soundtrack of sorts. As Andy Gill of The Independent notes, "This concern, about how to reconcile one's desire for inner peace with our rage at worldly events, runs through the album."[5]

Gentle Spirit features all original Wilson compositions, with the exception of his rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Way I Feel".


Professional ratings
Review scores
BBC Music[3]
El País[9]
The Independent[5]
The Guardian[10]
The Sun[4]
The Times[12]
Financial Times[13]
Evening Standard[16]

Gentle Spirit instantly received attention and glowing feature reviews upon release, including praise from the likes of Mojo, Uncut, BBC Music and others. The album received high marks in the 2011 End of Year polls as well, including earning #4 in Mojo,[1] #16 in Uncut,[17][18] #28 in The Guardian.[19]

Uncut leads off its review by introducing Wilson as "the new king of Laurel Canyon".[20] Throughout the course of his review, Uncut's James Mulvey states that, "Gentle Spirit illustrates a more prosaic act of creation, in which fastidious study is transformed into compelling new music."[7]

Mojo acknowledges Wilson's craftmanship throughout by saying, "The pursuit of authenticity and eye for detail stretches to Wilson's production techniques" as the album was recorded to analog tape.[21] Kathleen Johnson of Vintage Guitar described the album as a "a hippie-soul drenched 80 minutes of folk-psych-rock goodness".[22]

The song "Gentle Spirit" was recorded live during sessions for the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary.

The song "Desert Raven" was used to close Tycho's 2016 Burning Man set.

Track listing

All songs written by Jonathan Wilson (except "The Way I Feel" written by Gordon Lightfoot).

  1. "Gentle Spirit" – 6:27
  2. "Can We Really Party Today?" – 6:41
  3. "Desert Raven" – 7:58
  4. "Canyon in the Rain" – 6:27
  5. "Natural Rhapsody" – 8:21
  6. "Ballad of the Pines" – 4:00
  7. "The Way I Feel" – 4:07
  8. "Don't Give Your Heart to a Rambler" – 3:47
  9. "Woe Is Me" – 6:22
  10. "Waters Down" – 3:46
  11. "Rolling Universe" – 3:25
  12. "Magic Everywhere" – 6:26
  13. "Valley of the Silver Moon" – 10:32
  14. "Morning Tree" – 6:20 (Bonus Track)
  15. "Bohemia" – 6:13 (Bonus Track)


"Gentle Spirit"

"Can We Really Party Today?"

"Desert Raven"

"Canyon in the Rain"

"Natural Rhapsody"

"Ballad of the Pines"

"The Way I Feel"

"Don't Give Your Heart to a Rambler"

"Woe is Me"

"Waters Down"

"Rolling Universe"

"Magic Everywhere"

"Valley of the Silver Moon"


  1. 1 2
  2. Dominguez, Juliette (2009-06-07). "Laurel Canyon's Latest Rock 'n' Roll Scene". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  3. 1 2 "Music - Review of Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit". BBC. 2011-08-12. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  4. 1 2 "Jonathan Wilson - The Sun - 5.08.11 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  5. 1 2 Gill, Andy (2011-08-05). "Album: Jonathan Wilson, Gentle Spirit (Bella Union) - Reviews, Music". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  6. Mojo review
  7. 1 2 "Wild Mercury Sound - Post details: Jonathan Wilson: "Gentle Spirit"". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  8. "Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit | Clash Music Latest Album Review". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  9. "Espíritu flotante · ELPAÍ". 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  10. Caroline Sullivan (2011-08-04). "Jonathan Wilson: Gentle Spirit - review | Music". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  11. "NME Album Reviews - Album Review: Jonathan Wilson - 'Gentle Spirit'". Nme.Com. 2011-08-08. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  12. "Jonathan Wilson - The Times - 06.08.11 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  13. "Jonathan Wilson - The Financial Times - 06.08.11(1) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  14. "Jonathan Wilson, Gentle Spirit: Album review". 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  15. "Jonathan Wilson - Q - September 2011 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  16. "Destinations Media SmartEdition". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  20. "Jonathan Wilson - Uncut - July 2011 2011 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  21. "Jonathan Wilson - MOJO - August 2011 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  22. Johnson, Kathleen (January 2013). "Jonathan Wilson". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
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