‘Foolhardy Folk Tales’ is a second instalment of tall tales and reminiscences from Jay McAllister, best known under the moniker Beans On Toast. His first book, ‘Drunk Folk Stories’, published in 2018, was eaten up by his fans, and this follow up will probably fly out of his largely DIY homegrown industry by the droves. It follows its predecessor’s format with McAllister coming across as a chummy mate who is happy to tell you tales of a sometimes misbegotten past over a pint or two down in the local. It’s certainly no ‘Chronicles’, but it’s short, engaging and, as we said, kind of chummy.
The tales open with him as a teenager, desperate to “get the fuck out of Braintree” and end with him married, a father and the owner of his own house, the deposit partly paid for by online sales of his artwork, which had soared at the beginning of the pandemic. In between, he recalls touring the states with punk-folk band Skinny Lister, their tour driver an alcoholic coke fiend, his first trip to Texas as a teenager, ending up in bed with an Austin woman who has “a thing for English boys,” and then returning years later for a cocaine fuelled debut at SXSW.
Along the way, McAllister boasts of his exploits in the art of “blagging.” He poses as a journalist from a made up student magazine to get into gigs and explains how to get dirt-cheap drinks at festivals. He also shares some “get rich quick” schemes he’s pondered on and adds a couple of stories of the type which used to feature on John Peel’s Home Truths. However, there’s little here about his actual craft, his songwriting. There is a lengthy conclusion where he writes about his finances, in particular, the income derived from his canvases, initially bought at Poundland, hastily scrawled on and sold at his merch table for a tenner. To be fair, he says that as he progressed, his scrawl became much better.
While the on the road episodes here might intrigue general readers, ‘Foolhardy Folk Tales’ is aimed directly at Beans On Toast’s fan base and, again, all dues to him, he seems to have a genuine affection for them. He writes, “I especially like hanging out at the merch. It’s a necessary component for me, as merch sales are my bread and butter. But that’s not why I love it. It’s the meeting people, that’s what I love. I’m not aware of any other job where you get to travel around the world, and everywhere you go, you have people who are automatically your friend. As far as I’m aware, that only happens in the arts. It’s a beautiful thing.”
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