Last week we reviewed EJ Moeran’s Folksong Arrangements (Naxos 8571359), a collection of old songs collected by Ernie Moeran. We made the point that they were songs from an age before mass entertainment, when farmers or sailors would gather and be entertained by songs that told stories to which they could relate. The words were clearly enunciated for listeners to follow and all told stories.
Jay McAllister (he is Beans On Toast) continues this honourable tradition of people telling stories in song, though instead of farmers supping a pint of locally brewed Old Grubber, his audience is more likely to be students and hipsters, drinking lager. Mr Moeran was less likely to drop four letter words, too.
We nearly reviewed this entertaining album last week but it’s good we didn’t, as McAllister offers a valid observation on the Paris atrocities: “When a brown man kills we blame religion / When a black man kills we blame the race / When a white man kills we say it was an isolated event / And he’s criminally insane”. Facebook take note.
Not that he only talks about politics and heavy topics: there are memories of his childhood in Essex, songs about homelife, a conversation with a man in a US casino and a rant against lip syncing pop stars and bands who use electronic trickery to fake their live sound. It’s all heart-warming and entertaining, and McAllister doesn’t just use his acoustic guitar, with various instrumentation popping up and giving a lively gait to the songs.
He sounds like a man best suited to a small crowd in a pub or bar but he’s no slouch: as Beans on Toast he opened Glastonbury Festival in 2005 and has done so every year since. This prompted him to support Kate Nash at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2008, and after Frank Turner produced his album Trying To Tell The Truth, he supported Turner for a sold-out Wembley Arena show in April 2012. We’d imagine that Wembley crowd felt as if they were in a small pub for the duration of his set.
Turner is a good comparison: though he’s more folky than Turner, he’s got the same feel of an Everyman poet. Entertaining.