Jonathan Wilson Gentle Spirit

Jonathan Wilson Gentle Spirit
Jonathan Wilson's involvement with the re-emerging Laurel Canyon scene has very much flown under the radar in the past. The North Carolina native has produced albums for the likes of J. Tilmann and Will Oldham, plus he's played on records by Elvis Costello and Jackson Browne. And all that time, he's been creating music, which has finally been released as his epic debut. Clocking in close to a CD-filling 80 minutes, Gentle Spirit is the kind of album that somebody makes when nobody else tells that what to do. That brings with it the excesses and indulgences that can often derail a project of this scope, but all his experience helps prevent that. Instead, the acoustic songs meander along at a near-glacial pace, with Wilson's understated vocals holding things together. The whole thing is reminiscent of the kind of album that his Laurel Canyon heroes made in the '70s, when the labels let go of their reins, warts and all. When it is good, it is very good indeed. "Desert Raven" sounds like a glorious CSNY outtake, while "Valley of the Silver Moon" needs its entire ten minutes to cast its beguiling spell. But there are just too many repetitious, long-winded moments, which prevent this from being the classic it initially threatens to be. (Bella Union)