The first of the two simultaneously released albums to mark his 40th birthday produced by Frank Turner and also featuring keyboardist Tensheds, Matt Hensley from Flogging Molly, Matt Nasir from Sleeping Souls, Turner’s wife Guise and Red Clay member Anna Jenkins, Knee Deep In Nostalgia finds Jay McAllister reflecting on the past and the old normal in contrast to its one man lockdown companion piece.
It gets underway with ‘The Village Disco’, a whistling and organ backed shuffling romp through childhood memories about his mum dragging him on to the dance floor , using dancing as a metaphor for his career and that, basically, he’s going to be singing today about reminiscences not how to smash the system.
Accompanied on piano and pedal steel, ‘What Would Willie Do’ is nothing more or less than a nod to Willie Nelson and his easy going lifestyle and sense of morality while ‘My Favourite Teacher’ with its cooing backing vocals rather describes itself (inspirational Essex secondary school drama teacher Mr, Lee apparently) as it sings about taking heed of wisdom offered.
A country-tinged banjo romp singalong ‘No Need To Be Frightened’ looks to autumn and winter, Halloween and Bonfire Night while coincidentally also musing on what happens when you die, he even howls at the moon. Then it’s on to ‘Your Old Mate Beano’, a playful observation on Australian lingo, complete with a line about shrimps on the barbie, and the toetapping chiming rhythm of ‘The Family Tree’, a pondering not on personal ancestry but rather humankind’s march of progress (“long ago we invented the wheel, in many ways we are inventing it still”) and seeing the world through the eyes of a child and to “let imagination run wild”, but sounding an eco warning of the sound of approaching chainsaws.
Lightly fingerpicked, ‘Album Of The Day’ is another ode to letting it just hang as he sings a love song about spending the day with his daughter and just introducing her to classic albums from start to finish (a swipe, perhaps, at the ADD track hopping tendencies of modern youth), the eclectic list taking in The White Album, Gracelands, Exodus, Nine To Five, Brothers In Arms, Aretha Now, London Calling and Music For A Jilted Generation, taking care to avoid greatest hits “because the real world comes with album tracks”.
It ends with, first, the seven-minute plus acoustic picking of the gently lilting, accordion coloured ‘Once Upon A Time’, a looking back over his childhood, teenage years and musical path, of visiting Camden Palace, the 80s London home of the New Romantics and the cool kids, on a Tuesday in the early noughties, leading to his move to London, handing out flyers, putting on bands and throwing parties, a time of being young and thirsty for life, before noise complaints and Sports Direct brought an era to an end.
It ends in a lively calypso carnival bounce and celebration of having a Saturday knees-up with ‘Coincidence?’ (which would sound great on the radio if it didn’t drop the f-bomb) complete with a mid-section sax solo, come rain or shine come what may.
Knee Deep In Nostalgia is an album that (mostly) puts the social and political issues on the backburner for a celebration of a life mapped by music, it’s the most buoyant and upbeat of his work to date, wade through it and smile.
Artist’s website: www.beansontoastmusic.com
‘The Village Disco’ – official video: