Jay McAllister, better known as the drunk folk singer Beans on Toast, is turning thirty-four. This birthday sees the release of his newest and sixth album: The Grand Scheme of Things. McAllister is known for his politically driven lyrics and recreational drug use, and while the latter may have waned the former hasn’t. The Grand Scheme of Things is a stripped-down folk album that examines both the personal and the public. Lizzy’s Cooking is a light-hearted love song, an ode to his fiancée’s artful and heartfelt cooking. Don’t worry, he’s not a chauvinist and she can wear the trousers if she likes. Luckily for McAllister, his good intentions are clear, which hopefully spares him some grief.
The big-picture songs come in the shape of humourous The Chicken Song, where Beans on Toast’s penchant for sarcasm is in full force. He condemns the proliferation of chain restaurants in All I See Is Wagamama, the one song whose sound is too repetitive. Here, an unbroken piano refrain wears down the ears, though perhaps it is a metaphor for what our world will look like with a Wagamama on every street. He urges the younger generation to put down their smartphones in Stinging Nettles, but all the while, McAllister admits to his own failings (he eats chicken and uses a computer, just like us) which is what makes these songs poignant. He doesn’t claim to be better than anyone.
The album also features a love-hate relationship song with Nashville, TN, a city he loves for its country music influence. That country sound is prominent throughout the album and mixes well with McAllister’s particular twang. He readily admits his disillusionment with the city comes from a near-empty gig he played, but he also resolves to give it another go.
All in all, The Grand Scheme of Things brings together the best elements of Beans on Toast’s talents – pared down lyrics and a pure folk sound.