Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tomato/Tomato: “So It Goes” (2014) CD Review

Tomato/Tomato is a bluegrass band based in New Brunswick and composed of the husband and wife team of John and Lisa McLaggan. Their debut full-length CD, So It Goes, put a smile on my face the moment it began. There is something about their joy on these tracks that is infectious. There is love in this music, and a sweetness you can’t help but like and appreciate. But there is also a sense of humor, which keeps it all from getting sappy. These are all original songs, written by John and Lisa. It’s a bluegrass album, but with folk and country elements (and even a touch of blues). And they have some excellent musicians joining them on these tracks, including Ray Legere on mandolin and violin, and both Kyle Tuttle and Russell Sawler on banjo.

So It Goes opens with a bright, happy-sounding bluegrass tune titled “Toss It All Away.” This song touches upon the subject of consumerism and our addiction to keeping up with the latest gadgets. And soon they sing, “But I’m afraid that I might disappear into my phone/Toss it all away, I’m going home.” That’s an attractive message, more so these days than ever before. I particularly appreciate the line, “Throw away my phone.” Hell, I’d be happy if we could just get people to stop talking about their phones. I hereby call an end to phones as a conversation topic. (By the way, “I Can’t Lose You” also mentions cell phones. It still seems odd to hear those devices mentioned in bluegrass tunes – it’s like two opposing worlds colliding. But I love the lines “I don’t need my cell phone/Nobody ever calls it” at the end of the tune.)

“Gone Too Far” has a slower country vibe that is just perfect, especially for a song about a troublesome relationship – you know, the kind we just can’t let go. “Well, I love that you act crazy/Blessed with a knack for the bizarre/You tried to push me right to the edge/Now you’ve gone too far/I knew I couldn’t trust you/There was mischief in your charm.” Russell Sawler plays banjo on this track.

There is a delightful swing to “Stylish Fella.” Lisa’s lead vocals have a great old-time sound that is delicious. This one has a sweet, fun vibe, with lyrics like, “He liked to talk, I liked to listen/He helped me clean up in the kitchen/The days were warm and bright with my stylish fella.” Plus, there’s a really nice instrumental section that breaks up the story, working to show time passing, as in a film. Afterwards, she sings, “When the leaves were falling to the ground/My baby took a trip to the city/He found himself a lady, real high-class/She had money, but she wasn’t pretty.”

“So It Goes,” the CD’s title track, is a pretty, soft folk tune with Lisa on lead vocals. And I love the harmonies that begin nearly halfway through the song, coming as a sweet surprise. This is one of my favorite tracks. “And when our story’s written/May we gain more than we lose/No one really knows/So it goes.” My absolute favorite track, however, is “Breakin’ Down.” I just love the groove and whole feel of this one. John takes lead vocal duties on this track. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Whiskey burning in my mouth/Twisting my head all around/Staring through the bottom of my glass/Bottle’s disappearing fast/Whoa, I’m breakin’ down.” There is some really nice work on violin and on banjo.

“Gotta Get Out Of This Town” is a fun, fast-paced bluegrass tune that is at first about leaving the city and heading for the country – a good bluegrass topic, of course. And it’s delivered with a bit of humor that I appreciate, for as soon as they reach the small town, they want to leave there too. I love the mandolin on this track.

CD Track List

  1. Toss It All Away
  2. Gone Too Far
  3. I Can’t Lose You
  4. Stylish Fella
  5. So It Goes
  6. Out Through The Window
  7. Breakin’ Down
  8. Gotta Get Out Of This Town
  9. No Regrets
  10. Nothing Ever Works Out My Way


Musicians on this album include John McLaggan on vocals and guitar; Lisa McLaggan on vocals, washboard and tambourine; Ray Legere on mandolin and violin; Russell Sawler on banjo; Kyle Tuttle on banjo; Jon Estes on bass; and Mathieu Benoit on drums and percussion.

So It Goes was released on July 22, 2014.

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