A two album missive about the past and the present filled with wry observations and brilliant lyricism
Jay McAllister is a folk musician whose broader musical palette has seen him develop a particular brand of socially realistic songs delivered with a Chris Difford like pathos and …yes…diffidence. Produced by Frank Turner and celebrating his 40th birthday Beans (as we shall call him) has dropped not one but two albums. The first ‘Knee Deep in Nostalgia’ is exactly that a lyrical and upbeat examination of McAllister’s past evoking amongst other things drama lessons and his favourite teacher, Halloween parties and the village disco. There are also songs in tribute to Willie Nelson, his family’s roots and Australian cousins. All these are songs come produced with an innate sense of optimism and good humour there is no scent of pandemic here and the musicianship is delightful. Especially delightful is the inherent smile running through the lyrics and vocals about Beans spending time with his daughter listening to The Album of the Day. It includes a checklist of great albums and you find yourself hoping he will name check the one closest to your heart. A joyous track.
The second album is altogether darker fare and a proper folk album in the sense that folk was always a medium for social commentary. These are reflections on a year unprecedented in modern history and Beans lays it all out from discussions of the NHS, death tolls, toilet roll stampedes and isolation. ‘Strange Days’ opens proceedings with brio and optimism, a clarion call for togetherness to defeat the virus. Simple guitar and vocals like most of this impassioned, effective broadcast from the bunker. Some of these songs have been released before but here they are joined by five new songs discussing things such as the Govt.s failings in ‘Arseholes’ or trying to stay positive as in ‘Trying To Keep The Lights On.’
Both of these albums have musical and lyrical merits and together make a compelling argument for Beans on Toast being far more widely known than he is already. Let’s hope his fortieth brings him the success he deserves from these excellent postcards from the eye of the storm.