Jay McAllister is an uncompromising UK based folk singer, better known to his fans as ‘Beans on Toast’. His uncompromising, down to earth style combined with irreverent lyrics, delivered with a sense of fun has won him legions of fans up and down the country. To date he has released 5 albums, appeared at numerous festivals, including several appearances at Glastonbury, and toured with his friend, collaborator and label mate Frank Turner.
‘Beans on Toast’ is currently on a 16 date headlining tour which covers the length and breadth of the UK. I managed to catch up with Jay before his show at Portsmouth’s Wedgwood Rooms last night. As always McAllister was relaxed and smiling despite the fact that he had been rushing around all afternoon getting set up and playing an in store set before the gig. Jay told me that he has really enjoyed the current ‘Beans On Toast ‘tour, he had played in great venues to great crowds and that he had a great time with support act Will Varley. The tour was in support of his 6th album ‘The Grand Scheme of Things’, released on his birthday, Dec 1.
I suggested to McAllister that this album was a little bit of a departure from his previous offerings, that there was more of an ‘Americana’ feel to it and that he was perhaps showing his softer side. He felt that he has always written about his life experiences and that this hasn’t changed. Jay went on to say that ‘I am more settled now, I am getting married a week on Sunday so I am writing about things like that. I can’t spend my life writing songs about drink, drugs and getting wrecked’. After the wedding Jay will be taking Lizzy to have the ‘New Orleans Honeymoon’ that he sings about on the album.
Jays experiences touring in the USA have clearly influenced his sound on this album, several songs have a distinct Country feel, most notable in ‘Fuck you Nashville’. McAllister acknowledges that there is a country feel to some of the songs but that this was just the way they came out, there was no deliberate plan, it just felt right for the song. He will be returning to the USA for some more shows in 2015 and will also be playing in South Africa in the Spring.
Throughout this ‘Beans on Toast’ tour, support has been from Will Varley and tonights show also featured a short set from McAllister’s long time friend and local boy Sam McCarthy who played a short but very well received solo set. Varley played a 40 minute solo set which again was very well received by the crowd. Varley has a very nice guitar style and creates a lovely sound from his nylon stringed classic guitar. He plays self penned folk songs that have a touch of ‘Americana’ about them. The majority of his songs were from his recent album ‘As The Crow Flies’ I was particularly taken with ‘Weddings and Wars’, ‘I Got This e-mail’ and ‘She’s Been Drinking’ all of which are engaging, interesting and well written songs.
Beans On Toast began his set at 10 p.m. and as you would expect the focus was on ‘The Grand Scheme of Things’ with ‘Folk Singer, ‘War On War’, ‘Fuck You Nashville’, ‘A Whole Lot Of Loving’ and others getting a run out. McAllister clearly enjoyed being so close to the crowd, there were no barriers so they were within touching distance. In his usual inimitable style Jay was very soon performing from the middle of the crowd rather than from the stage. He was certainly enjoying himself when he agreed with the crowd that they would take turns picking songs. There are no set-lists at ‘Beans on Toast’ gigs and this meant that a string of crowd favourites were played. There was one sour moment when Jay invited a young man onto the stage and the less than friendly security promptly threw him out. This did drag the atmosphere down but Jay soon got things back on track by delivering the Chicken Song. Jay also ensured that he showed who’s side he was on by going back into the crowd, climbing on a fans shoulders to sing and inviting the crowd to get up on each others shoulders to join in. Irreverent and no-holds-barred as usual. As the show grew to a close ‘Beans on Toast’ invited dozens of fans onto the stage to form a ‘virtual’ campfire circle whilst he played ‘Flying Clothes Line’.
As the show closed it was clear that everyone had enjoyed a very solid show from an artist who can be relied on to deliver on every occasion, an artist who enjoys performing and who does his utmost to ensure everyone at his shows goes home happy.