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Beans On Toast - 'Foolhardy Folk Tales' Book Review

Jay McAllister might not be a name you recognise but you may be aware of his stage name. In fact if you're a regular festival goer you’ve probably crossed paths with the chap. As Beans On Toast, Jay has graced many a gig stage. As a modern Folk troubadour he has a gentle take on the wandering minstrel persona. Part stoned hippy in love with life, Beans has a real way of telling stories that entice you in while leaving you feeling all fuzzy, high on life and in love with possibilities

In fact, it’s this talent that has led him down another path. A few years ago he self published his first book “Drunk Folk Tales” ten short tales from his life chronicling his life, travelling, car crashes and burning pubs. During lockdown he put fingers to keyboard and collected another handful of stories. “Foolhardy Folk Tales” is another volume of his life down in book form (hard copies as well as digital and audiobook versions are available through his website).

In a sentence that nobody ever thought would exist, Beans shares some traits with that other road poet Henry Rollins. Where the Rollins’ books are set in a cold, hard world of anger and cynicism, Beans are set in the chemically altered reality filled with drugs, hope and love. Where both writers and performers intersect is their tales of life on the road, both coloured with humour and a “you had to be there” hook.

The book actually opens with a tale of fiction. “The Great Tesco Robbery” is a cross between Ealing comedy “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “Reservoir Dogs” after some cheap wine and weed. Beans takes characters from his late teens in Essex and weaves a story of his friends robbing their local Tesco store on the eve of a new century. The whole thing catches you off guard a bit. Like, did this really happen? Nope. He follows it up with the books introduction where he admits to pulling our legs with the first story. The reset though, that’s all different. They’re snippets of his life seen through a hangover and weed fuzz.

From then on we’re living his life with him. There’s stories of the world’s worst tour driver (“The Key”), how to get into gigs for free (“The Blag”), Jay’s first trip Stateside and to SXSW (“Messing With Texas” which is a particular highlight (no pun intended)) to tales of love and the loveless (“No Such Thing As A Free Breakfast”) and what we do in our life and how it effects others (the tender “Beautiful Alice” which tugs softly at our heartstrings). The pandemic only raises it’s head from it’s sick bed in the final chapter “Art” where he tells us how life has been and how it has led him to finally buying a home for his family in the middle of the pandemic, something only someone like Beans On Toast could manage.

Beans is a natural and gifted story teller. His stories are all gentle and wrapped up in a hug and big wide smile, his writing style very conversational. Each chapter could very easily start with the words “here mate, you would not believe what happened” and that’s very much part of his charm.

If you’re already a fan then you’ll love “Foolhardy Folk Tales” as much as his albums. They’re stories told with fondness in the dim light just as the sun is coming up, before that first wave of the hangover starts creeping into your skull. If you’ve a passing curiosity then you’ll come away wanting to check his albums or his live shows out. Me? Well, I want to head to Whitstable. There’s a small pub there called the Black Dog (actually small might just be overselling it just a little) and think it’s the perfect place to grab a pint with Beans and ask how what he’s been up to. “Oh mate,” will be the reply, “I need to tell about what happened last weekend…….”

You can buy “Foolhardy Folk Tales” and other goodies from the Beans On Toast website

Review - Scott Hamilton

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