By Jason Schneider Media
As anyone who’s tried to grow tomatoes knows, sometimes it takes a few attempts to achieve the perfect flavour. On their new album Canary In A Coal Mine, New Brunswick-based roots rock outfit Tomato Tomato—led by Lisa and John McLaggan—have done just that, reaping the benefits of the seeds planted on their previous three releases.
Although those records established Tomato Tomato (pronounce it however you choose!) as an award-winning songwriting partnership with a high-energy take on traditional sounds, they have truly progressed to the next level with Canary In A Coal Mine, made at Nashville studio The Bomb Shelter (Alabama Shakes, Margo Price) with producers Jon Estes and Andrija Tokic, along with some of Music City’s finest musicians.
The result is a potent display of everything that’s made Tomato Tomato one of the most beloved groups on the Canadian folk music scene, from John’s inventive songwriting to Lisa’s unforgettable Neko Case-esque vocals. However, with Canary In A Coal Mine, folkies are now going to have to share Tomato Tomato with the rest of the music world.
Crackling spontaneity is certainly evident on the album’s opener and first single “Take It On The Road,” as well as the stomping title track and “You Don’t Know Anything,” both instant roadhouse classics. The album’s quieter moments are just as powerful, with “Kite Song” and “Nothing Left” bringing the duo’s intimate connection to the fore. And for the musos, there’s even a couple of covers of The Band’s “Ophelia” that strips the song down to its bluesy essence, and A-ha’s “Take On Me,” which unexpectedly drew admiration from the Norwegian stars after the McLaggans posted a live video that has since garnered 25,000 YouTube views.
Canary In A Coal Mine is an important milestone on the McLaggans’ journey, and a reminder that growing things organically—especially when it comes to tomatoes—is still the best approach.