Beans On Toast: A Bird In The Hand

review beans on toast x1 cong

Beans On Toast (aka Jay McAllister) sings the same song over and over; the words might change but his musical accompaniment has a small range, and exists to make words melodic. He’s a mate of, and like, Frank Turner, just less grand.

Early on, he explains his modus operandi to listeners, saying he’s “at it again / pimping out my private life under the lights … whistling a melody into the breeze .. I try to make some sense of it all come the chorus”.

So this new CD, his tenth studio offering, sees him on his usual topics, with added weight because he is now a dad.

Opener Another Year is about getting older, his daughter only having had the one birthday, the day she was born, he reveals. Good Health and Happiness moves onto reflect that these are the only two things that matter; one is largely out of our control and one hard to pin down.

The album title refers to the proverbial bird in the hand being worth two in the bush — ie appreciate what you have — and while this is a constant theme of his, Beans now has more reason to appreciate what he has.

After these reflections, we get Magic — the birth of his daughter — and Here at Homerton Hospital, a round-up (possibly factual) of the staff at the hospital where the baby was born — who are from all races and nations. Dan from Gloucester, the surgeon, is married to a physio from Egypt, who has lunch with a woman from Swindon via Jamaica who works in A&E and deals with a Portuguese paramedic, a pharmacist from Senegal, a paediatrician from Pakistan, and a security man from the Isle of Man, “All coming together for the sick and poorly” (and eating the “killer shepherd’s pie” made for the hospital by the chef from Bangladesh).

It’s not all about his baby: Bamboo Toothbrush is about protecting the environment, though towards the end he admits he’s writing the lyrics with a plastic biro. Please Give Generously is about giving to the homeless, not just money but time.

We also liked 1980s Sagittarius, about a singer called Laura, the punchline being she’s with the excellent Skinny Lister, who’ve played Just So and recorded their debut in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

It’s not great art, but it’s entertaining, possibly one for walking about with, to keep one’s brain ticking over. It’s produced by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons.

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