Jay McAllister is certainly a creature of habit. Under the Beans On Toast moniker, he’s released a new album every year on 1st December since 2009, each one a witty snapshot of modern life at the time pushed through the filter of lo-fi barroom folk. It’s little surprise that he’s become something of a cult draw, earning plaudits over the years from such high-profile artists as Frank Turner, all while keeping perhaps the most consistent schedule of any current musician.
But that consistency can also have a downside, in that (apart from last year’s guitar-free ‘A Spanner In The Works’) there’s very little change or growth between albums. That’s probably the biggest issue with ‘Cushty’; the folk stylings have worked for this long, but at fourteen tracks consisting of only an acoustic guitar with occasional embellishments of violin, harmonica and piano, it’s a bare-bones setup without much variety or deviation from that standard. For more wistful cuts like ‘It’s A Funny Old World’ that does work, but before long, the over-familiarity does begin to set in.
Still, this would be a much larger issue if McAllister’s writing wasn’t the defining feature of his albums, and ‘Cushty’ is really no different. He mightn’t be as fiery as some of his folk-rock peers, but there’s a warmth that comes from his unrefined vocals that lends a particularly gentle touch to tales of a same-sex couple trying to make end’s meet on ‘Jamie And Lillie’, or the commentary on the obsession with celebrities over friends and family on ‘Taylor Swift’. Even on ‘Open Door Policy’ and ‘I Think Everybody Should Be Terrified’ which do approach an angle of more direct social commentary, there’s something so inherently approachable about the campfire acoustic strums and minimalistic production that’s wonderfully compelling all the same.
But honestly, if you’ve kept up to date with Beans On Toast, you already know all of this. ‘Cushty’ is effectively more of the same from a man who can afford to keep delivering exactly that, especially when it’s as smart and imbued with as many knowing winks as this. It probably won’t change the world, but that’s never stopped McAllister before, and until next December rolls around, this is definitely worth a few spins.
‘Cushty’ by Beans On Toast is released on 1st December on Xtra Mile Recordings.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)