Dodson and Fogg defies easy contextualization. While Chris Wade’s psychfolk project, now five albums deep, owes much to an alchemical mix of Syd Barrett, the British folk revival, and early English glam, the conditions under which Wade produces his music bear little resemblance to any notion of modern music industry norms. He works quickly, much as his musical heroes did in the 1960s and 70s, and contrary to the common thinking that a working band needs to tour, Dodson and Fogg is primarily a studio project, conducted by Wade and a handful of musicians whose roots go back to such luminously legendary groups like Trees, Mellow Candle, and Hawkwind. Surrounding himself with icons does little to change the flavor of his music, which collectively may constitute the most singular and consistent demo tape ever produced, and begs the questions: Where is this man’s Joe Boyd, and why not a record deal? The songs are without fail melodically rich, top out at midtempo, and possess a kind of walls-are-closing-in textured darkness that is part songwriting, part production value. Wade’s penchant for doubling or chorusing his vocal, which I’ve criticized before on Progarchy, admittedly creates a cohesion among the songs, and coupled with tasteful instrumentation and no-nonsense lyrics, makes Dodson and Fogg’s first album almost interchangeable with its fifth. I’ve struggled some with this, and recognize that the artistic development I want from Wade is keyed almost entirely on expectations Wade should have no interest in meeting. The music industry has blown up, touring behind an album presumes that the artist wants — and has the audience — to materially survive on his music (rather than just make music) and LIKES to play live, and… how often do we get to witness the kind of woodshedding a songwriter like Wade is doing with Dodson and Fogg? So while I continue to think a seasoned producer would be a positive challenge for Wade, without one he has managed to create a rather stunning catalog in a mere two years.
After the Fall continues Wade’s exploration of a mood music combining mostly acoustic backing for voice and the occasional big electric guitar. Where before this has taken his music in the direction of the Kinks and T. Rex, his passion for early Black Sabbath, of which he has written in his other gig as a rock author, takes shape here on the satisfyingly sludgy “Lord Above” and “Hiding from the Light,” with its whacked-out Scheherezade-style guitar break. The skiffle-ish “Life’s Life” is the album’s standout, a twist on Zeppelin’s folk excursions, while “Careless Man” has an Electric Warrior vibe that Wade excels at capturing while avoiding mere Bolan worship. The balance of the record shares with its predecessors that 1970-soaked British singer-songwriter drift, complete with sitar, that generally succeeds at extending rather than imitating a period where musicians of Wade’s talent were afforded greater commercial reach (despite and because of the lack of an internet). I think the question remains of where Wade’s Dodson and Fogg goes from here, if its end will continue to so closely resemble its beginning, and how Chris Wade sees himself developing as an artist. In the meantime, though, it’s hard to argue with a music that so definitively succeeds on its own terms.
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Free Dodson and Fogg sampler: http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/dodson-and-fogg-vinyl.html