Album Review: Beans On Toast – Rolling Up The Hill

Rolling Up The Hill

beans on toastReleased 1st December 2015

Words: Nick Jacques

This here is the latest Beans On Toast album, aptly named Rolling Up The Hill. This is his 7th album and surprise! Surprise! He’s releasing it yet again on his birthday which is on 1st December.

His latest offering gives the impression of an artist who is comfortable within his own skin and his story-telling music style but he has the will and enthusiasm to keep trying and get his message across. The album is littered with defiant messages of socio-economic unrest, the passion to be heard, reminiscing , sharing stories and urban tales about the testament of the human spirit and it’s all played out in a striped back, salt of the earth manner which prevents Rolling Up the Hill tumbling down to the bottom of the pile.

For those not in the know about Beans On Toast (aka Jay McAllister from Essex) , he prides himself on being a Glastonbury regular and has opened each Glastonbury Festival since 2005 and is renowned for speaking up about political and social issues with an uncanny sense of humour and charm. He’s pretty much played every UK festival you can think of (I was lucky enough to catch him at the Secret Garden Party this summer! And he rocked the joint!) everyone you can think of and has supported the likes of Frank Turner, worked with Mumford & Sons’ very own Ben Lovitt on his debut album Standing On A Chair and this had guest appearances from the likes of Emmy The Great and the Holloways. So his musical pallet is diverse as well as his lyrics.

Opener is an upbeat folk ditty called The Mudhills Crew. It signals his intent to share memories of being a troubadour and hanging out with friends in Essex back in the day. It has that sense of a time that passed but still has a determination to see those days again or to at least never forget what those days meant to him.

Robin Hood Costume paints a different picture altogether. It’s a straight-up song of protest and frustration backed with a drum beat on the front foot about how modern life is designed to limit your freedom and how the media injects fear into everyday society. It’s an effective message delivered with panache and accuracy.

I’m Home When You Hold Me is charming, endearing and has ample tenderness to the song-writing. It begins with a passionate and heart-felt harmonica intro which gives way to a pleasant sprinkle of banjo and this is combined with some lyrics which have a certain personification to them;

The future is our oyster with the tobacco sauce, with a little bit of luck and a little squeeze of lemon we can enjoy the adventures of our whole lives together

With Beans On Toast, it’s all about the lyrical pictures which he paints for the listener, the music plays a subtle yet effective and engaging role but it’s the message that he’s trying to convey which is main attraction here.

Album highlight Driving Me Crazy is probably the best example of this as it kind of sums up where his mind is at the moment as he displays clever lyrical passages. While The Great American Novel is a caring and perceptive view of American life squeezed into 4 minutes and 23 seconds and it shows that his persona has a sort of humility which most can relate to.

Industrial Estate confirms that his strengths lie in his story-telling. He has an uncanny and commanding sense of how to spell out everyday life in a frank and honest style, confronting social/economic issues with an unflinching honesty that touches a nerve.

Not afraid to voice his opinions on the (slightly) big issues such as terrorism, religion and racism – he displays this with wit on God Is A Cartoonist which might cause a few eyebrows to be raised. What impresses me is his ability to get his serious messages across and yet still come across as a performer. He has a natural playfulness to his stripped-back music style and this manages to make a good smoke screen for the seriousness of the themes in his songs.

Afrikaburn explores how the human soul can survive on its own without technological advancement and how the age-old human values of kindness and respect will win in the end. How being cut off from civilisation can also help the human spirit triumph. Final song is  Numbers and Words which is only 43 seconds long but Beans On Toast still manages to get a cross a deep and meaningful message across about love which will leave the listener feeling good about themselves.

There are times where Beans On Toast  might come across as a heart-on-his sleeve type of guy as he voices all of his concerns about the atrocities of human kind and how there is still enough spirit left in the world to overcome the man-made systems of control across our hemisphere. But this is Beans On Toast. He’s projection to us all is very much what you see is what you get but with enough humour and intrigue to keep us guessing what he will do once he gets up to the top that hill . . . .

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