We knew this was coming. We could see it coming six months out. I don’t necessarily mean the timely arrival of Pinecones & Cinnamon, Tomato/Tomato’s new Christmas album; I mean that with a certain inevitability, Tomato/Tomato were going to go full Nashville.
It’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened to anyone. The risk is always there. The concept of a country Christmas album also has plenty of precedent, particularly in the case of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Once Upon A Christmas. From 1984 onward, that album held a place of honour in my parent’s stereo cabinet alongside Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and The Sinatra Christmas Album.
Naturally, in the tradition of such things, Tomato/Tomato recorded Pinecones & Cinnamon en situ. This isn’t to say they visited the North Pole for this album, but rather they chose to record it in Nashville.
“It’s the studio that Alabama Shakes recorded their first album with. Bomb Shelter Studios… We already had it in the works to do our next album there, and we were too excited to wait so we had to do at least part of this one there, too,” says tomato Lisa McLaggan.
To be fair, Once Upon A Christmas was recorded in Dallas, but there’s no escaping the fact that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton are the epitome of country Christmas.
Dolly Parton’s ‘I Believe in Santa Claus’ even makes an appearance on Tomato/Tomato’s album, along with a handful of traditional (or newly traditional) songs. There’s the classics: ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’, ‘Silent Night’, and Leonard Cohen’s more contemporary ‘Hallelujah’ blended in for good measure.
There’s also the Tomato/Tomato original ‘Christmas Keener,’ passive aggressively opening the album like the neighbour whose house is lit up on November 12th, and by the December 1st they’ve got outdoor speakers playing Christmas songs all day long. Instead of sharing in their exuberance, you kind of want to cede the holiday to them, and pack it in until spring.
‘What’s The Big Deal About NYE’ feels like the duo’s ideological counterpart to the classic ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,’ sympathizing with the lot of us that have a hard time working up any sort of excitement with a week’s worth of turkey weighing us down.
‘The Trouble With Mittens’ addressees some, thought not all, of the challenges the wooly prisons present us with, and how easily we might part with them. By the time you get to ‘Christmas Grump’ you should be able to recognize whether you fall into that category or can maintain the mania of a ‘Christmas Keener’.
Pinecones & Cinnamon might boil down to just your personal stance on blue as a Christmas colour and what place, if any, pedal steel has in a Christmas song. How about jingle bells and mandolins? The genre-bending songs are a fun way to revisit some classics, and their originals cover the bases for those who are seasonally disinclined.
McLaggan hints that they had a very specific reason for recording in Nashville, but we’ll have to wait for their next release to find out why. They’ll be returning to record at Bomb Shelter Studio in January. In the meantime, they’re following up their UK tour with a series of east coast Christmas shows.
12.01.17 @ Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, PEI
12.02.17 @ Highland Arts Centre Sydney, NS
12.06.17 @ St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Sackville, NB
12.07.17 @ Vogue Theatre Miramichi, NB
12.08.17 @ St. Andrew’s Wesley United, Springhill, NS
12.14.17 @ Christ Church Anglican Church, Saint Stephen, NB
12.19.17 @ Central United Church, Lunenburg, NS
12.20.17 @ Grace United Church, Digby, NS
12.21.17 @ Imperial Theatre, Saint John, NB
12.22.17 @ Fredericton Playhouse, Fredericton, NB