If life is what happens when you are busy making plans, sometimes full on, full band country-rock albums are what happen when you are planning more understated acoustic affairs. That’s what happened to Ed Abbiati anyway. Beat the Night came about quickly following a dry songwriting spell but what was intended to be a restrained solo affair about going through hard times quickly developed into a highly collaborative album about new beginnings.
After a decade at the helm of Lowlands, a duet album with Green On Red and Dream Syndicate musician Chris Cacavas, as well as being part of roots rock supergroup The A.C.C, the time felt right for Abbiati to release his debut solo album but as the focus changed slightly from dwelling on the dark stuff to looking for the silver linings, old friends were gathered around the recording.
The album is still intensely personal, plenty of songs about near misses and going through hard times only to realise that it is love, and sometimes luck, that pulls you through, but it is also about the realisation that it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.
The opening salvo and title track gets right to the heart of the nature of the album, a song about facing life-threatening illness and making it out the other side and offers a brilliant juxtaposition between a kicking country-rock groove and the very personal lyrics. More often on this album the autobiographical nature of the songs sees them take a more considered form, with the various layers of instrumentation building texture rather than adding weight. The original, more restrained aim for the album can be felt on songs such as Harm’s Way where swirling violin and delicate piano is all that is added or with the cello driven delights of Look at Me.
And there are plenty of old friends adding their musical touches to the proceedings. Fellow A.C.C man Stiv Cantarelli adds some deft guitar to 45, Mandolin Brother Jimmy Ragazzon lays down some emotive harmonica on I Can’t Tell You and Mike “Slo Mo” Brenner’s lap steel adds sonic gorgeousness to everything it touches.
Beat The Night is a great album, one of contrasts. It is totally personal yet talks about things that we can all relate to. It is filled with dark moments but is full of hope. There are some wonderfully underplayed songs and others that rock out with the best of them. And if the album is about what you can get through when you remember that there are people who truly love you, the album as a whole is about what you can achieve when you get your oldest musical friends in to join in the fun.