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Beans On Toast - 'A Bird In The Hand' Album Review


1. Another Year

2. Good Health & Happiness

3. Magic

4. Here At Homerton Hospital

5. Alexa

6. 1980’s Sagittarius

7. Bamboo Toothbrush

8. Watching The World Go By

9. Please Give Generously

10. Miss You Like Crazy

Jay McAllister, better known as Beans On Toast has just released his tenth album, ‘ A Bird In The Hand’. He has a tradition of releasing albums on the 1st December each year and 2018 is no exception. He has done this since his first album ‘Standing On A Chair’ released on 1st December in 2009. I think Beans a.k.a. Jay is a proper Folk singer for the modern age. Has anyone else written about their concerns for speech-controlled apps like Alexa? Well Beans On Toast has very successfully on his new LP.

There are some great Beans On Toast songs on ‘A Bird In the Hand’ but on a couple of occasions it feels a little flat. But I can forgive that from someone so prolific and talented! There are a few songs about or relating to Jay’s new daughter; “Magic”, “Another Year” and “Miss You Like Crazy” to name just a few. This definitely seems to have mellowed some of the previous humour and vitriol. However this would probably be the same for any new parent. But on certain songs this album does exactly what it says on the tin and makes you think outside the confines of your perhaps comfortable life.

“Here At Homerton Hospital” is a great summary of the vast array of different people, races and religions that populate our wonderful National Health Service (NHS). This is a proper poke in the eye to those Brexit supporting arseholes. There are some really classy songs in this collection as there are in every Beans On Toast album. I would love to see these tunes played live just to hear Jay McAllister’s stories about the songs. I love his anti-plastic song “Bamboo Toothbrush” which is a great take down of the plastic we are poisoning our oceans with. His raw vocals applied to his story and message songs work perfectly. This is a more mature and slightly less frivolous album than his previous releases and there is less cynicism on display here than usual. Is this due to the mellowness induced by Jay becoming a new parent? I don’t know, but that is perhaps a typical new parent reaction.

The title of the album, ‘A Bird In The Hand’ which is clearly based on the old English phrase ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, suggests that Beans On Toast is all about showing how much you appreciate what you have now rather than constantly desiring more. The album is produced by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and that production is crisp and clear and the songs, in my opinion, are far better than any recent Mumford releases. I believe that “Please Give Generously” is about the wave of homelessness that seems ready to deluge our fair island.

I wanted this to be a five out of five but for me it’s a four for a number of reasons; Jay has mellowed and therefore his songs are probably less likely to upset the powers that be. But whatever reviewers say about ‘A Bird In the Hand’ it would be fair to say that it is a very good album and you need to check it out.

Review - Bill Adamson

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