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An Overnight Low issue best album to date with ‘Waverley’

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Portland-based band An Overnight Low has released the third installment in bandleader Chad Walls’ musical-travel trilogy. 

“Waverley” (named after the railway station in Edinburgh, Scotland) follows 2014’s “Euston” and 2015’s “Piccadilly” (titled respectively after British train stations in London and Manchester).

“Waverley” is An Overnight Low’s most musically varied and richly-produced collection yet; it was recorded at Halo Studio in Windham with indie producer Jonathan Wyman.

The tri-city concept was born of a forced holiday flight delay endured by Walls, who had been earning his doctorate at the University of Manchester. His time in the United Kingdom was split largely among three cities – each offering its own characters, qualities and experiences. Walls poured the inspiration derived from each city into a batch of new songs, each reflecting the observations and feelings of a foreigner who felt a strong pull from his new surroundings.

“When I look at the lyrics for ‘Waverley,’ there are all sorts of songs about literally being split in two,” Walls told me in a recent interview. “I’m separated but trying to put myself back together.”

That feeling of being split in two or belonging to more than once place is also reflected in the lyrics of “Dandelion,” “Iodine” and “Spirits in the Dwelling,” but is perhaps most evident in “Centipede.” 

“That really is a song about being torn,” Walls says. “There’s that line about ‘both halves can’t live alone.’ When I was a kid, there was a rumor that if you cut a centipede in half, they will each regenerate and walk off to make other centipedes, so the song is about trying to resolve this idea of being split in two.”

An Overnight Low sounds distinctly mid-60’s British on the album’s opening song “My European Flat,” which features a cameo from the person to whom “Waverley” is dedicated – Manchester radio personality Reverend David Gray, the “Punk Monk” of Salford City Radio 94.4 FM. 

“I’ve known him for more than 10 years,” Walls said of the popular drive-time radio host. “He works really hard at promoting our music and is one of my best friends in Manchester. It’s pretty bold to go into a city and write about it and then expect the people there to be receptive. But he loves the songs and spreads the music to his audience. It made sense to put him on the record and dedicate it to him.”

The Reverend’s contribution to “My European Flat” turned out to be the song’s finishing touch, according to Walls.

“There was space in the middle where we tried a guitar solo and a trumpet solo but nothing sounded right. Then I remembered this answering machine message that David left for me. He was on the air at the time and says ‘We’re live on air in Manchester but you’re not there. Good grief, what are we going to do?’ It fits the song perfectly.” 

Walls says he plans to fly to the UK later this month with copies of “Waverley” and will play the album in its entirety on Gray’s radio show on July 30. The station can be streamed at

“Waverley” also includes the beautiful torch-jazz rocker “Tonight She Sings For You” featuring Tina Nadeau Murphy (wife of drummer Mike Murphy) on lead vocals.

“When I wrote that, it sounded like it could have been recorded by Squeeze – a band I love,” Walls told me. “When we brought it to Tina and Mike, it developed into a different type of song.”

“Jazz Held The Traffic Back” is perhaps the centerpiece for the album. Inspired by Manchester’s annual month-long Festival Fringe (the world’s largest art festival), the Beatles-esque song was written from Walls’ perspective of a resident who is also kind of a tourist.

“The city’s population increases by about one third during the festival,” Walls explains. “The places I liked to frequent were overrun by tourists and I wrote it from the perspective of someone for whom life changes when all of those extra people are there. It’s kind of how I feel now as a resident of Old Orchard Beach (laughs).”

The Festival Fringe also inspired the fifth song on “Waverley” – “The World Hears Gold” - according to Walls.

“I went to a very high spot in Manchester to just watch and listen. From that vantage point, I noticed that the city looked like the inside of a trumpet and the sound that bounces around the buildings sounded like its own symphony.”

“Waverley” is An Overnight Low’s most cohesive and compelling record so far. According to Walls, they approached the album “as a band” as opposed to the first two albums which contain multiple overdubs recorded by different members on different days.

Producer Jonathan Wyman says the difference in recording technique can be easily detected.

“I feel that this group is really a group and consequently, the sound of this record is way different and, dare I say, more unique,” Wyman told me during an interview. “Everything on ‘Waverley’ was played by the band as it stands and that puts a unique signature on it.”

The week before I interviewed Wyman, he was in London, where the lyrics of Walls’ songs kept bouncing around in his head. 

“Whether it was the Piccadilly line on the London Underground or other lyrics that popped up that made me think about where I was, I kept thinking about this record,” Wyman says. “It was at the forefront of my consciousness when I was in the UK saying ‘OK. This is what Chad was talking about.’”

Wyman and Walls have been friends and collaborators for 20 years.

“He’s one of the first people I ever collaborated with professionally, when I was 22 years old,” Wyman told me. “I’m so honored that Chad continues to trust me with his work. I would never fault an artist for wanting to try something different. I’m just super-psyched that I always get the call.”

“He gets the best out of every musician,” Walls says of working with Wyman. “You’re able to get a lot done when you’re in the studio with Jon. He knows exactly how I work and what I’m looking for. He’s like a magician who is always one step ahead of me.” 

Walls was worried that “Waverley” was perhaps too varied in musical style. Wyman put his mind at ease.

“It’s not varied like they’re saying ‘Here’s a bluegrass song or a heavy metal song or a reggae song’ – it’s not like that at all,” Wyman says of Chad’s songs. “It’s adventurous songwriting.”

Although Walls had planned for An Overnight Low to move in a new direction following the completion of the band’s travel-themed trilogy, he says the concept might be extended for one more record.

“Our publicist is based in Dublin,” Walls says. “He’s pushing for a fourth record called ‘Connolly,’ which is the train station there. I visited Ireland a lot when I was bouncing around these other cities and, growing up in an Irish-Catholic town, I was fascinated with Ireland even before I got there.”

Walls says he feels an intensely strong connection to the people he met and the places he went in Manchester, and is looking forward to returning to the city later this month to unveil “Waverley” in its city of inspiration.

“There are many similarities between the people there and the people here in Maine. They’re tough, salt of the Earth, working class people. I would love to move there permanently but I’m sure I would get homesick pretty quickly.”

“Waverley” is available now from all Bull Moose stores and will appear on iTunes later this month.  

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 July 2017 15:23


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