2014 was a big unclogging of old energies for some of my oldest Bay area associates.

Range of Light Wilderness were the first folks I met in the Bay Area scene. I was popping in and out of Esalen for awhile a few years back (taught a songwriting class there, took LSD and talked with aliens, did a saltwater enema, wrote a musical, wore all white clothing, did other weird shit) and along the way befriended Tommy McDonald, who mans Esalen’s front gate. We hit it off immediately and toured the West Coast together multiple times over the next year or so.

Tommy’s songs just move me in a way that very few modern artists can remotely approach. In my mind, these guys are far superior to pretty much anything else going on. They have great songs, yes, but, more than anything, they nail the vibe. The atmosphere. And that, to me, is more important than words / melody / chords / however other way you might subdivide a song.

Tommy’s the creative force behind ROLW but by no means the only important ingredient. When Jessi Campbell and Nick Aives come in with those harmonies — DANG. It’s like CSNY but without the stint in rehab. Plus Nick is a complete shredder on the bass and Jessi holds it down like some alternate reality inversion of Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward. Bliss state.

They finally released a proper record into the world on Gnome Life, collecting the best bits of the past few years. Some of the recordings are literally a hand-held cassette player recording their rehearsals — these sound the best to me — reminds me of early Wailers recordings, Jamaican stuff, my favorite old recordings from the 60’s. They really nail the aesthetic. It gives the songs some weird deja vu feeling, approaching instant nostalgia, but without a cheesy instagram filter doing the heavy lifting. It just comes naturally through the music.

Songs about healing and nature can be a minefield of cliche and overwrought sap but these guys avoid all that somehow, simply by gliding right over it, transcending it, paying it no concern. They are my old friends and they make fantastic music.

Bill Baird is the founding member of the musical entity “Bill Baird,” although his actual name is Morton. Actually the founding members of Bill Baird would be his parents, Mote and Margie. Bill also started the bands Sound Team and {{{SUNSET}}}. Under these guises and others, Bill has released dozens of albums.