One Hundred Dollars is led by the sultry baladeering of Simone Schmidt and Ian Russell’s sharp guitar. They hail from Toronto and Songs of Man is their second full-length album. As soon as I downloaded Songs of Man, it started pouring rain, which was great news for me for two reasons: 1 – The thunderstorm scared my roommate’s girlfriend’s amp-chewing schmuck of a dog that I’m sitting into the corner and finally got him to calm down. Two – It cast the perfect setting for a One Hundred Dollars listen on the porch.
Schmidt’s got one of the sexiest voices since Chrissy Hinde, because, like Hinde, she doesn’t ham-it up. Her voice owns it’s smokiness the way the South owns it’s clay–it’s native, it’s not put-on or shipped-in, it’s got truth to tell you. That’s what makes a sexy voice. That, and lyrics like:
Run your fingers through my hair,
don’t let your heart’s hope be your hand’s despair…
Time moves quicker with a softer touch.
Love me while you’re waiting on another. Love me a while.
– from “Waiting on Another”
By that point in the listen, the dog had been rendered completely docile and affectionate (by the music or the thunder or some combination), and we’d successfully learned a waltz. Miracles abounded. For instance, if you listen closely to “Powdered Confessions,” you’ll hear Ian Russell echo Neil Young’s guitar riff from “Unknown Legend.” There are so many more distinctive moments on the album that you won’t even mind the slight rip-off. However, I think that guitar lick is critical to understanding the origins of this album. I have a theory, stick with me:
In 1992–that torrid time, that sweltering summer–the world bore witness to two harbingers of hell: the landfall of Category 5 Hurricane Andrew and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton making lip-love to a saxophone on late night TV. Rather than wait around for the third and final sign of the times (which everybody mistakenly thought was the Church of England’s vote to allow women to serve as priests), the Canadian government decided to take action to save their cultural currency (because in Canada, the people demand that the government actually acknowledge their own art). What those brave Canadian minds did was lock two of 1992’s best albums in time capsule and set them to play on infinite repeat. Those albums were Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and Leonard Cohen’s The Future, selected because together they embodied the best of the sex of the North Country, the pulse of their terrain and the weight of their even more massive sky. Nineteen years and no judgment later, those albums had done something more than repeat, they had reproduced, and the doom-raised, teenage offspring that emerged in summer 2011 is One Hundred Dollars’ Songs of Man. It makes sense to me.
After that, the dog just tore-up a whole box of Famous Amos and my wallet. I think he got a throat-ful of pennies. And this indictment from Schmidt:
Your mother was a flame of mine, gave meaning to the word.
And I a lonely woodchopper, seeking out what I could as I would with time to burn.
For every time you thought that I did not love you,
for every time you thought that I did not care, well
I handled my axe, made my way through the forest, cleaved a tree
toward the kindling for the fires of regret.
– from “Fires of Regret“
Songs of Man is golden–a modern roots heavyweight, pitted full of vivid characters. One Hundred Dollars earns the auspicious honor of busting my Essential Listening cherry. They’re sure to knock you out in a way much more pleasurable than the way in which I would like to knock out this dog.