One Hundred Dollars is the best modern country band in Canada. That’s hyperbolic and highly subjective declaration, but the newly beefed up six piece stands head and shoulders above the endless amounts of bands bastardizing the genre. Led by Simone Schmidt’s gravelly vocals and spot on story telling, One Hundred Dollars avoids the path that causes so many alt-country bands to fail.
Instead of trying to sound fresh and littering songs with timeless and overused stereotypical country themes, Schmidt and her talented band sound pure as they highlight relevant issues. This ain’t broken down pickup trucks or tear-in-your-beer melancholy, but more importantly, this isn’t about political activism either. One Hundred Dollars, quite simply put, are realists. The world is a mess right now and money is tight for most people, but rather than point fingers, Schmidt uses this platform to shine a light at what’s going on through the eyes of characters worthy of your attention and your ear.
Whether it’s the sympathetic embrace she offers the Fort McMurray oil workers forced to leave their family and wrestle with the temptations that try to sink us all is tear jerking or the desperation she addresses with simple admissions like, “four grand short and this I know/we’ve got a ways to go”, Schmidt exposes us to pain most of us have been lucky enough to avoid. The beautiful “Where the Sparrows Drop” details a couple separated by war, and even when the band kicks into full gear they use the catchiest hook to perfectly encapsulates the sadness of escaping your broken heart by simply sleeping with someone else to forget.
Three years ago, Forest of Tears was recorded in 13 hours after the band had been together for a mere six weeks. Spontaneity defined the songs and pushed the almost unheard of LP onto the Polaris long list. Songs of Man is a different animal altogether. The band shared the writing, worked with Stew Crookes and with new instrumentation and more took advantage of time in the studio to deliver a tour-de-force that is full of adventurous arrangements and surprises. Traditional acoustic numbers like “Brother” and “Aaron’s Song” stand shoulder to shoulder with the brash lead single “Black Gold” and the smoking hot, damn near Fleetwood Mac-ish “Waiting on Another.”
Basically, One Hundred Dollars is a band that constantly defies the labels we’re so determined to shackle around their ankles and wrists. Music is a powerful drug, one we often rely on to transport us away from heartache, pain and sadness. One Hundred Dollars denies us that naive escape and forces us to admit that a song can’t change the world or make it better. Personally, I’ll take an honest reality over false hope any day.