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Dodson and Fogg - Roaming

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 7 / 3 / 2016

Dodson and Fogg - Roaming
Label: Wisdom Twin Records
Format: CD


Fantastic ninth album since 2012 under his Dodson and Fogg project for Leeds-based singer-songwriter and musician Chris Wade, who is still finding new ways to make his unique prog-psych-folk hybrid fascinating listening

‘Roaming’ is the ninth album that multi-instrumentalist Chris Wade has released under the Dodson & Fogg name since 2012. And that’s only part of his workload; there’s been the Rexford Bello album with brother Andy, the Rainsmoke project with Nigel and Roger Planer, a collaboration with Sand Snowman, his work as an author and running his own record label and website. Surprisingly, given that Wade must never sleep, any of the projects that bear his name have been up to a consistently high standard; after the first few albums under the Dodson & Fogg name it became apparent that Wade is a special talent but still there was a nagging feeling that he couldn’t continue at this pace (three Dodson & Fogg albums in 2013 alone) and that the time was surely looming when the quality of his albums would have to dip just a little, even if only to prove that he is human after all. But with ‘Roaming’ Wade shows once again what a unique talent he is. In fact it’s getting almost embarrassing. On first play ‘Roaming’ sounds like, well another Dodson & Fogg album, no more, no less. Wade’s sixties and early seventies influences are still proudly on show. His dreamy, laid-back vocals are present and, just as we have now come to expect from him, melodies swirl around the listener's head and we still shake our head and wonder when one of our most innovative and skilled guitarists is finally going to get the acclaim he deserves. But on listening again (and you will, it’s addictive stuff) it becomes apparent that ‘Roaming’ might just well be the strongest set of songs Wade has yet put together. With every album Wade releases, we’re guilty of stating that it’s his best work to date but that feeling was missing on the first listen of ‘Roaming’. There was no disappointment. It was another brilliant fusion of folk, prog and psych that Wade seems to just conjure out of the air, but it felt like just another Dodson & Fogg album. It was better than most of the competition around at the moment, but it seemed to lack that special ingredient that made the previous albums shine so brightly. Then as the album plays for the second time slowly but surely it reveals a little more depth than Wade’s previous offerings. Or maybe by now our expectations are so high that it’s taking slightly longer for Wade’s songs to disclose all their intricacies. I’ve not been slow in saying that I’ve heard a lot of Marc Bolan in Wade’s Dodson & Fogg creations. Apart from the (to these ears) obvious debt to mid-period Bolan musically, there’s something captured in the presentation of the Dodson & Fogg albums (Linzi Napier’s artwork is always stunning) and even in the images of Wade that occasionally grace the albums recall the elfin one in some strange, unexplainable way. It has to be said though that Wade appears to be a modest guy, almost to the point of not grasping just how talented he is musically, whereas modest and Bolan were never really a tight fit. Bolan wasn’t the only artist that laced Wade’s Dodson & Fogg work. There were so many influences at play there it always made for fascinating listening. ‘Roaming’, more so than any other Dodson & Fogg album, is much less his influences and more Chris Wade. At times it does feel that ‘Roaming’ is the album that Pink Floyd might have produced had both Barrett and Gilmour stayed and there are at least a couple of songs that owe a debt to Bolan, but for the most part ‘Roaming’ is the sound of Chris Wade making some of the most rewarding and adventurous music we are going to hear this year. Until, of course, Wade delivers the next Dodson & Fogg album, probably within the next three months knowing his work-rate. ‘Roaming’ finds Wade once again playing the lion’s share of the instruments. Ricky Romain returns with a dusting of sitar on the track ‘Roaming Part 2’, Georgia Cooke plays the flute on the same song and also contributes to ‘Rainclouds’ while Nigel Planer and Celia Humphris supply backing vocals on ‘For a While’ and ‘The Best in Me’ respectively. The fourteen songs are all Chris Wade originals, and ‘Silver Bay’ a co-write with Linzi Napier who once again provides the striking cover art. It’s obvious from the title track that opens the album that Wade is no mere sixties copyist; as usual he’s wearing his influences proudly but has the imagination and skill to envelop these in his own unique contemporary setting. While there are many bands and solo artists recreating the glorious sounds of an era in music that Wade so obviously understands and loves, the difference here is that Wade has the vision to use these sounds as a template for his own music rather than simply try to duplicate them. While you only have to walk outside your front door these days to see someone with headphones (or whatever they are called this week) on, I wonder if they are actually listening to whatever music is being pumped into their head as they walk or jog along. I mean really listening. Time was when there were albums that more or less demanded to be heard on headphones. Lounging in your favourite chair or on the bed in a darkened room, you lost yourself in the music, marvelling at the sounds that you could now hear that were lost when the album was played loud on the stereo. ‘Roaming’ is best heard on headphones. It’s only then that the intricacies that run through all fourteen songs really come to life. It also reaffirms just how talented Chris Wade is for creating this music, making those sounds in his head come to life. In a different life I can remember my peers raving about a young chap by the name of Mike Oldfield and how he had, almost single handedly, created a musical masterpiece; nine Dodson & Fogg albums in and Wade isn’t trying to recreate his past glories or dressing them up in new clothes. He’s furthering his journey with each album and in quick succession too. Where’s the justice? The placing of Wade’s vocals (and they appear to be stronger then ever on this set) and the way the instruments are spread through the mix can only be appreciated when you shut the world out. Put those headphones on and lose yourself in the magical kingdom of Wade for the duration of ‘Roaming’. Even the fuzz guitar on ‘I Could Tell You the World is Yours’ (one of the Bolan-influenced tracks) won’t shake you out of this cosy Wade-world you’ve settled into. Wade’s fluid guitar playing here is exceptional. ‘For a While’, which follows, reverts to the laid-back, dreamy style of the opening cut. Again listening on headphones is the only way to appreciate the beauty in this song. ‘The Best in Me’, which is the song that features Celia Humphris (Trees) on haunting backing vocals, is one of Wade’s darker excursions, Humphris' contribution offering a chilling counterpart to Wade’s emotive vocals. Towards the end of the song Wade’s electric guitar steals the show. It’s become something of a Wade trait to suddenly burst through with some blistering electric guitar just as a song is winding up. It’s frustrating for the listener at times as you’re left wanting more of the same, much more. It’s not until ‘Pulling Faces’ at the half-way mark and the introduction of the tabla that it becomes apparent that most, if not all, that has gone before has been created without the use of any type of percussion. Certainly there are no drums to be heard. It is strange that it takes until midway through the album before that becomes apparent, but maybe it contributes to the ethereal sound that seeps through ‘Roaming’. ‘Always Looks Like That’ is undoubtedly one of the prettiest songs Wade has so far recorded. Not for the first time has Wade conjured up visions of a lazy summer's day in the English countryside. Coupled with another one of his wigged-out guitar solos as the song fades, it’s another classic slice of Wade-psych, which would be the highlight of the album if it wasn’t for ‘Roaming Part 2’. Not only is this (mainly) instrumental one of the most adventurous and experimental pieces of music Wade has created (and he’s been involved in a few), it’s up there as one of his most thought-provoking songs to date and that’s without the use of any discernable lyrics. The album closes with another stunning cut, ‘Silver Bay, which co-written with Linzi Napier, once again captures perfectly this sense of Englishness that informs most of Wade’s more melancholy work. And yes, once again with his leaving guitar lines we are left thinking how on earth can Wade still be something of a cult figure and still go largely unnoticed when he is so obviously one of the best musicians and songwriters we have today. The uninitiated can dip into any of the nine Dodson & Fogg albums and be blown away by the scope of Chris Wade’s musical imagination and talent. For those already in the know, the only thing left to say is what are you waiting for? If any of his previous albums appealed to you, then ‘Roaming’ is a must-have.

Track Listing:-
1 Roaming
2 I Could Tell You the World Is Yours
3 For a While
4 The Best in Me
5 Book of Rules
6 I'm Running Out of Patience Now
7 Pulling Faces
8 Keep Looking Ahead
9 Always Looks Like That
10 Yesterday Man
11 Rainclouds
12 Roaming - Pt. 2
13 Old Bar
14 Silver Bay

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