One Hundred Dollars
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One Hundred Dollars


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"One Hundred Dollars: Songs of Man 8/10"

In 2008, local band One Hundred Dollars became instant critical darlings with their debut Forest of Tears. At the time, the two most remarkable things about the indie-country outfit were that they’d managed to craft a nearly perfect record after only six weeks together and a mere 13 hours in a studio, and that singer Simone Schmidt had such an impressive Nashville twang for a Toronto gal. So it’s not surprising that three years on, they’ve returned with a better-considered and exquisitely realized follow-up in Songs of Man. The overarching lyrical concept, wherein Schmidt writes from the perspective of different men, is well complemented by subtle variation from song to song (a little piano here, some lap steel guitar there). But in the end, it’s all about the lyrics: Schmidt’s tales of callused hands, scarred hearts and ash-covered dreams live up to the honky-tonk promise of her voice.

Playlist picks: “Black Gold,” “Where the Sparrows Drop” - The Grid

"Guitar nation: the sound of northern comfort"

A fun one, then, although the real gem in this week's bumper crop of new Canadian releases is One Hundred Dollars' sophomore album, Songs of Man ().

This Toronto sextet was still finding its feet as a band — and principles Simone Schmidt and Ian Russell still finding their feet as a songwriting team — when its striking debut, Forest of Tears, was made in 2008. Songs of Man thus sounds a bit more like the subtly rockin' pseudo-traditionalist country act One Hundred Dollars has grown into onstage over the past three years, impressing as much with musicianship and attention to arrangement as it does with writing.

Schmidt and Russell really are a killer team, spinning literate, keenly drawn narratives about ordinary folk struggling to pay the bills (“Work”) and slogging it out on the oilsands in Fort McMurray (the unassumingly epic “Black Gold”) that tend to hit you in the right, sad places melodically the way old-school country music does. Schmidt's undisciplined croak might be an acquired taste to some, but it's perfect for the material and the gal can do “hurt” like no other: “Where the Sparrows Drop” is a quiet masterpiece of longing.

Still a relatively young entity, One Hundred Dollars has the distinction of being the one act amongst the four up for discussion today that sounds like it's at the beginning of a musical journey that will take us places unexpected in the future. That's not to say that Sloan or the Sam Roberts Band or even Anvil have the capacity to hit us with a wild left turn somewhere down the road (although I'm betting Anvil won't, unless you count the horns on Juggernaut's “Sweet Thing”). Just that for the moment theirs are the sounds of comfort, while One Hundred Dollars' is the sound of questing. - Toronto Star

"One Hundred Dollars - Songs of Man"

When a ceiling-gazing Simone Fornow painted a pallid, sexless sex scene — all limp legs and colliding guts — on the opener of One Hundred Dollars’ debut, Forest of Tears, she announced herself as Canada’s next lyrical force. The country songs that followed proved no less effective, but it was neither due to her lilting croon nor the rock-solid efforts of co-songwriter Ian Russell or indie-celeb producer Rick White. Rather, it was Fornow’s ragged poetic chops: Frank, melancholy and keenly observational, hers was an ability to transport listeners to a place, a time and a mood, all with jarring specificity.

Accordingly, that One Hundred Dollars managed to pull off a wide-reaching, ongoing regional 7-inch series — setting to capture topics ranging from work shortages in Newfoundland to Alberta’s dirty gold — came as no surprise. Neither, too, is it surprising that Songs of Man, recorded at Blue Rodeo’s Woodshed Studios, is a dramatically moving sophomore effort.

Here, the requisite growth is evident: Now a sextet, One Hundred Dollars has added reverb-laced dream-roots (“Fires of Regret”), piano-led downers (“Brother”) and even a dash of Rumors (“Waiting on Another”) to its downtrodden arsenal. This should be noted, but the core of these songs still revolves around Fornow’s remarkable ability to humanize struggle — and rightly so.

Opener “Ties That Bind” — one for the dead-eyed city dwellers, though it’s much more crushing than the Weakerthans “Letter of Resignation” — is a song of pure alienation: Industry strips its subject of youth, while cancer finishes the job. “Where the Sparrow Drops” has lovers wrenched apart by financial insecurity; set in an airport, its protagonist prepares to be shipped to overseas trenches. Stunning closer “Black Gold,” a live staple and perhaps the finest song Fornow and Russell have penned, immerses itself in the “sick VLT glow” of Fort McMurray, where company men are forced to leave women in favour of both literal and figurative crude: “In our arms she bluffs the lovin’ of our wives, left out of sight / Cuz us workin’ men need workin’ girls to work us through the night.” Songs of Man doesn’t concern itself with protest songs — these are matter-of-fact death marches. With no skip tracks, no fat, no pretension.

Quite realistically, One Hundred Dollars makes no distinction between life, love and labour — an irrefutable injustice, but nonetheless, these are songs of, well, man, not politics: Here, Fort McMurray and the Middle East aren’t issues. They’re occurrences. They’re workplaces. Indeed, when Fornow declared that “hell’s a place on Earth,” it was neither a lie nor a metaphor. - FFWD

"Songs Of Man NNNN Review"

One Hundred Dollars - Songs of Man
By Richard Trapunski

When One Hundred Dollars recorded their first album, Forest Of Tears, they had only been playing together for six weeks. Now a well-practised, beefed-up six-piece, they bring a new confidence to their distinct brand of urban country.

Though it’s very much in the country tradition, Songs Of Man is a surprisingly diverse listen. Paul Mortimer, moved from bass to lead guitar, brings extra oomph to Waiting On Another and Black Gold, while the sparser Aaron’s Song proves they’re just as adept at stripped-back acoustic numbers that let Simone Schmidt’s strong, twangy vocals do most of the work.

The diversity makes sense, considering that the band works within the story-song tradition. Each song was written from a different character’s perspective and given its own day of recording. But despite being clearly country, One Hundred Dollars avoid cheatin’-hearts and cowboy-boots posturing, instead focusing on contemporary issues and situations. - Now Magazine

"Best-of ’11:: One Hundred Dollars Songs of Man"

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. - Herohill

"Songs Of Man Review 4.5/5 Stars"

If you remember listening to One Hundred Dollars' 2008 Forest Of Tears debut, you might recall "Tirade Of A Shitty Mom," an extended psychedelic number that stuck out from its mostly classic country sounding siblings. Something seemed off about that tune, since it indicated the band might head off in a different direction at another date.

They've somewhat done that with long awaited sophomore album Songs Of Man, which sounds like they've taken the instrumentation used on Forest Of Tears' tracks and successfully mixed it with the psychedelic atmospherics of "Tirade Of A Shitty Mom" to create psych-country.

This shouldn't be entirely surprising, since One Hundred Dollars have never been your "typical" country band, telling modern day stories and taking on social issues in a way few others in their genre can.

Simone Schmidt still sounds freakishly similar to Janis Joplin, particularly on opener "Ties That Bind," "Black Gold" and "Work." On "Waiting On Another" and "Powdered Confessions," she shows another side of herself and wanders off into Stevie Nicks territory.

Schmidt's capacity for telling great stories continues on Songs Of Man, which is named for the fact that all the tunes are sung from the point of view of male characters. And since all great country songs should be timeless, the album proves its mettle with closer "Black Gold." While it's about the Alberta tar sands, it could just as easily be about a coal mine in the early 20th century or an oil well in the southern United States during the '20s.

One Hundred Dollars have proven they're capable of evolving and sounding different, but at the same time maintaining their identity. Songs Of Man is unquestionably one of the year's best albums. - Chartattack

"Sound Advice: Songs of Man by One Hundred Dollars"

Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.

Most alt-country bands these days may be all hat and no cattle, but One Hundred Dollars are fine as cream gravy. Their 2008 debut, Forest of Tears, despite being recorded when the band was only six weeks old, put most of their rural-sounding contemporaries to shame, eschewing the wife-beaters 'n’ whiskey clichés for starkly observational ditties about contemporary situations. Their sophomore effort, Songs of Man, does the same, but a whole heck of a lot better.

Now a broken-in and beefed-up sextet, the band experiments with more ambitious arrangements on this record, dabbling in piano-led dirges (“Brother”), Spaghetti Western shuffles ("Ties That Bind"), and even a pinch of Fleetwood Mac ("Waiting On Another"). The core of these tunes, however, still centres around singer Simone Schmidt's poetic portraits of downcast humanity—now more heartwrenching than ever. In a reverb-drenched, world-weary drawl, she assumes the perspective of a different crestfallen soul in each song: "Where The Sparrows Drop" sees her offer a sympathetic embrace to a couple wrenched apart by financial insecurity and war, while on foreboding album closer "Black Gold" (streaming above) she stands in the shoes of Fort McMurray oil workers forced to leave their families and wrestle with wanton temptations.

Though Songs of Man could easily be confused for a protest record, it really isn't. Rather than mobilizing people to make a difference, One Hundred Dollars merely illustrate cold hard truths via matter-of-fact requiems. It may be depressing, but it's got our undivided attention. For a country record, that's no turkey shoot.
- Torontoist

"Guelph Mercury: Review"


Simone Schmidt has the voice of a woman who's been beaten down: by crappy jobs, by city life, by heartache, by parenthood, by perpetual disappointment. It's the voice of a woman who has discovered that love does not, in fact, conquer all. As the liner notes state here: "It's not the hardship that breaks you, but the small comfort of a strong shoulder that brings the tears." A forest of tears, in fact.

Her band mates -- borrowed largely from Toronto favourites Jon Rae and the River -- accentuate the ache with casual country leanings, driven by pedal steel guitar and Farfisa organ. They're careful not to crowd Schmidt's sad sack stories; the arrangements may well have been spontaneous, as this was recorded live in one day-long session by Rick White (Eric's Trip, Julie Doiron).

The pathos can be overpowering over the course of 14 tracks, but Schmidt is someone you want on your side when you need a hand out of the abyss, or at the very least someone to tell you that you're not alone.

One Hundred Dollars play Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Family Thrift Store in Guelph, along with Burning Hell, for Guelph's Kazoo! Fest. For more information on the amazing lineup all weekend, go to - Guelph Mercury

"Montreal Mirror: Disc Reviews"

Forest of Tears (Blue Fog/Sonic Unyon)

Apparently, being second to Montreal as “best hotbed for Canadian musical exports� has started to get stuck in Toronto’s craw. This record, which has more to do with early Emmylou Harris than any No Depression country, hopes to change that, with singer Simone Schmidt’s husky drawl delivering tales of destitution and despair. If Schmidt’s tales of love gone wrong don’t grab you by the heartstrings and unclog the waterworks, Stew Crookes’s careening pedal steel surely will. Bonus points for the great take on Ian Tyson’s “Someday Soon.� (Johnson Cummins)
- Montreal Mirror

"National Anthems"

The members of Toronto-based country act One Hundred Dollars aren’t ones to pussyfoot around. In concert, singer Simone Schmidt prefaces the band’s hard-knocks tunes with statements that can be jarring to an unsuspecting listener. “This one’s about having sex when you don’t want to,� she might murmur before launching into the jaunty, bittersweet Careless Love; she might preface the rambling No Great Leap by noting the disheartening number of women who are survivors of sexual abuse.

It’s no surprise then that when Schmidt and bandmate Ian Russell set about creating a series of seven-inch vinyl recordings inspired by different parts of Canada, One Hundred Dollars focused on stories that might seem at odds with rosier perceptions of our national identity. Schmidt and Russell claim they were initially inspired by Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy, the iconic CBC-commissioned tune from the 1960s that recounts the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, that “iron road runnin’ from the sea to the sea.�

The band’s Regional Seven Inch series will involve putting out a collection of two-song singles on different labels across Canada, with each record addressing issues relevant to the region in which it is released. The first seven-incher, which came out last week on Toronto’s Blocks Recording Club, features the mournful 14th Floor, which was inspired by one of the cancer wards at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. The B-side is called Migrant Workers, an unflinching narrative about the folks who travel from their home countries to harvest tomatoes in Leamington, Ont.

“The conflict in Canada is always posed as, ‘We have no national identity,’� says Schmidt during a recent interview in Toronto. “People have been hooked on that for about 40 years. [But] we have to realize we do have a national identity that we don’t necessarily want to embrace. There’s a range of things that come up when you love a place, just like when you love a person. It’s like writing a love song – you have to be critical and embrace the things you don’t love in the hopes of changing them.�

The tune Black Gold, one side of their Alberta seven-inch, was sparked by the singer-songwriter's conversations with a group of Somali friends and co-workers. Through these women, Schmidt learned of their sons’ and husbands’ experiences in Fort McMurray, where workers in the tarsands sleep in their cars because the demand for labour far exceeds the city’s accommodations.
($100) ($100)

“There’s so much money and everyone has three Hummers, but nobody has anywhere to live,� Schmidt sighs. “They do really hard labour, but are living really hard lives that don’t allow for any cultural sensitivity, which makes for a very violent disruption in people’s lives.�

In crafting lyrics, Schmidt is wary of falling prey to the sentimentality of writers like the Romantic poets. “You have to figure out how to avoid making weird emotional porn,� she says. “It’s important to us not to be exploitative and not to just write bummer jams.� Though the members of One Hundred Dollars come from a place of relative privilege, their specificity and critical thought prevents them from sounding maudlin or mining other folks’ traumas in creepy or condescending ways.

Russell and Schmidt started One Hundred Dollars about two years ago. The band was sparked by their shared love of singing Tammy Wynette and George Jones duets. In 2007, the pair corralled some friends to record the Hold It Together EP, a humble collection of tracks that stemmed from Russell’s experiences with leukemia.

But One Hundred Dollars really came into their own with their full-length debut, Forest of Tears. Released last summer, the album pays respect to the legacy of the greats they’ve studied so diligently – everyone from Jones and Wynette to Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard. It’s an enthralling mix of tenderly strummed acoustic guitar, gently brushed drums and Stew Crookes’s shivery pedal steel. It’s all anchored by Schmidt’s weathered barn-board drawl, which belies the fact that she grew up in downtown Toronto, and is still shy of 25.

One Hundred Dollars describe the music they create as new new country – the opposite of the slick dreck that dominates modern country radio. “Country music has been not country for so long,� Russell insists. “It’s like, city views of the country.� The stereotypical signifiers of rural life – fields, work, cattle – are being written about by outsiders, he says.

One of the best things about One Hundred Dollars’ Regional Seven Inch series – and arguably one of their core strengths as a band – is that while their releases educate listeners about underrepresented issues, the work never feels too earnest, or founded on platitudes.

Schmidt says that the act of reflection is part of why she was compelled to release these recordings on - CBC News

"EYE WEEKLY Feature"

There are eight million stories in the naked city, but $100 tell theirs using old-fashioned vocabulary — the rich, twangy language of country music

BY Sarah Liss July 23, 2008 15:07

The characters and catastrophes that populate $100’s sad, swaying songs seem familiar. There’s the girl with bruised hopes, waiting to hop a train so she can fumble numbly through her daily drudgery. There’s the distraught lover tabulating the cracks and fissures in the ceiling, counting down the seconds until unwelcome sex ends. There are cottages and compromises, grief and growth. Oh, and pain. A lot of slow, aching pain.

These stories are archetypal, the meat and blood that make up the best country music. You could almost imagine $100’s forlorn fables at home in a tune by Dolly Parton or Merle Haggard — only singer/songwriter Simone Schmidt isn’t talking about the Great Smoky Mountains or the Deep South, but the sidewalks and subway tracks of the GTA.

Impressively, this country music built on city stories doesn’t sound like the work of a bunch of wannabes or urban brats. If anything, $100’s commitment to transforming the world they know best into vivid musical snapshots results in deeply honest songs, material that feels closer to the spirit of country than it would if they were talking about whiskey and horses.

“It’s the form that we borrow,” insists Schmidt, fiddling with a pot leaf–emblazoned lighter as she and her bandmates take a time out in a backyard just south of Little Italy, steps from the garage where they practice. “To me, form is really important, and I like writing within that structure because it allows concise and conclusive metaphors. There’s nothing open. And there’s a sense of completion that comes with the form. My problem with a lot of new songwriting is that there’s no conclusion at all. Everyone’s just like, ‘Ennh!’

“I think stories come from anywhere… I mean, we don’t pretend that we’re from anywhere else. Pain is universal, and most of them are about pain and sad things, and everyone feels that at some point. But, y’know, the ‘No Great Leap’ tune is about riding the subway. We use the word train instead — because it is a train, just not a train that rides through the countryside.”
“And you can rhyme more words with ‘train’ than ‘subway,’” interjects bassist Paul Mortimer.
Admittedly, Schmidt’s lyrics and voice — a quavering, prematurely world-weary mezzo-soprano with a hint of twang — would be wasted if $100’s songs weren’t fleshed out by players with the same commitment to songcraft and authentic atmosphere. She started the band with guitarist Ian Russell (Jon-Rae & the River) almost two years ago; as a duo and within their newly expanded band, Schmidt and Russell are invested in making “songs that stand up on their own with just a guitar; no flim-flam, no canoodling.” Occasionally, they’d corral pal Stew Crookes to play pedal steel. (That’s his imitation of the TTC chimes you hear on “No Great Leap.”)

They built up a steady following that, impressively, wasn’t limited to a single faction or clique within Toronto’s slightly fragmented indie scene, supporting peers ranging from Fucked Up (who commissioned “Blaze of Glory”) to art-folk-blues songstress Jennifer Castle (Castlemusic — see On Disc, page 30). They made a humble EP called Hold It Together in 2007 and released it themselves. A fortuitous spot opening for Live Country Music (whose Doug Paisley warms up for $100 at the Horseshoe this Friday) led to Canadian indie god Rick White (who was in the audience) offering to record their debut LP, Forest of Tears, which comes out on Rotate This co-owner Brian Taylor’s Blue Fog label July 25.

White’s offer was even more incentive to assemble a proper band, so Russell and Schmidt recruited a collection of solid friends, including Mortimer, drummer Dave Clarke and organist Jonathan Adjemian.

“The day we recorded [the album] was one of the best days of my life,” Schmidt grins. Their exhausting session with White lasted 13 hours.

Schmidt draws on her real-life experience for $100’s music, which makes me wonder whether the songs are an extension of her activist background. (The brains behind guerrilla print collective PunchClock, Schmidt has worked on anti-poverty and disability-rights issues.)
“The music we make is affected by our politics, but I don’t think that putting out a record can be considered an extension of our politics. A record is a record, and there are a million of them, and if it took listening to records to get the kind of world that I’d like to see, then that world would be realized.”

"Music Feature : NOW MAGAZINE"

Music Feature

Gettin’ yer $100’s worth

Fantastic local fivesome’s hard hustle pays dividends

Jason Keller

It takes a healthy dose of hubris and maybe a touch of naïveté to walk into a studio one morning expecting to cut a full-length record before the sun goes down. Most bands spend days, weeks, even months doing retakes and overdubs, pursuing a vision until their recording budgets run dry.
But local twang hustlers One Hundred Dollars prefer a pithy approach. A few months back, they spent 13 hours in Rick White’s (Eric’s Trip) converted schoolhouse studio near Orangeville and walked out with their debut in the can by nightfall. And they even took a sizable dinner break.

“It was the best day of my creative life,” says vocalist Simone Fornow over a plate of mashed potatoes and gravy in the Annex. “It was 13 hours of hard work and no funny business.”

“It could have not worked; we wouldn’t be putting it out this summer if it didn’t,” says guitarist/songwriter Ian Russell.
“But it did work.”

It’s even more impressive when you consider they were a three-piece (Fornow, Russell and pedal steel ace Stew Crookes) until only four weeks before the studio session. Russell called his ex-bandmates, bassists Paul Mortimer and organ player Jon Adjemian, from his days in Jon Rae & the River, and they quickly went to work rehearsing. Dave Clarke provides percussion.

It helped that Mortimer and Adjemian were already digging One Hundred’s stripped-bare, plaintive tunes before even getting the call.
“I was fan of the songs before I got to play on them,” recalls Mortimer. “The thing that struck me about them was that they really rang true.”
“They all seemed to be about things worth writing songs about,” adds Adjemian.

The lugubriously titled Forest Of Tears, their debut on Blue Fog, continues in the melancholy, old-country vein they stumbled upon on their impressive mini-player Hold It Together.

The songs from that EP carry a discernible weight due to the emotionally heavy circumstances in which they were created. Russell was diagnosed with leukemia last year and had to have chemotherapy. Naturally, the music written during this period was shaded by his struggle.

“You can probably tell we were writing very sad stuff before it,” says Fornow. “There’s not that much music being made right now like this, and I think that will distinguish us because we had a really serious time.”

“We don’t really have happy songs,” laughs Adjemian.

That doesn’t mean One Hundred Dollars are a downcast bunch. Sitting around the table, the band loosely crack jokes, then collectively cringe when someone mentions the term “alt-?country.” Fornow, like many musicians, deplores genre pigeonholing of her group, but she’s comfortable being described as “new-?new country.” None of the band members can concretely define the term; it just involves George Jones somehow.

“If God had a voice, it would be the voice of George Jones,” says Fornow lovingly.

“We try not to act like we’re from the country. I grew up in the city; the songs aren’t about hay and the crops. We try to stay true to who we are.”

"$100, Hold It Together"

Hold it Together
By Vish Khanna

The music of Toronto, ON trio $100 would be forlorn and heavy even if it weren’t for the sad set of circumstances the band have faced in the past year. Simone Schmidt has been a secret weapon for some time, thanks to a rich twang that she warbles with understated power and grace. Together with Ian Russell (Jon-Rae and the River) and Stew Cookes, Schmidt drafts timeless, subtle folk songs for $100, which are captured in intimate, parlour room-style performances. Hold it Together came about in one night in 2007, a year that saw Russell diagnosed with leukaemia, bravely battling through chemotherapy, staving the illness off and entering remission. The gravity of Russell’s struggle only makes the songs here more poignant, as Schmidt delivers “Nine Hundred Miles” in a heartbreaking wail and paints a vividly depressing portrait of domestic relationships on “Careless Love.” It’s rare to be so moved by five songs but this first EP by $100 is so raw and stark that it resonates like only the most honest country music can. (Independent) - EXCLAIM! Feb '08

"Dusted Reviews: Forest of Tears"

Life might seem good on the northern rim of Lake Ontario – the Loonie is strong, Cito Gaston is back in the dugout – but Toronto’s One Hundred Dollars are here to remind us that, at close enough range, things are shitty everywhere. For starters, the six-piece country outfit cites leukemia as its honorary seventh member; lead guitarist and co-songwriter Ian Russell was diagnosed while the group was prepping its first EP for release – the poignantly titled Hold It Together. Yet even without that weighty bit of back-story, the 12 songs on the band’s full-length debut are deeply expressive of frustration, ache and loss.

Singer Simone Schmidt – who’s got a raw, world-weary drawl akin to Freakwater’s Catherine Irwin – brings the listener unabashedly close in the first few seconds of the leadoff track, “Careless Love.” It’s been 10 years and a handful of failed follow-ups since critics first swooned over the opener to Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, yet this track feels like a worthy passing of the torch. Schmidt’s song – a weary lament about a sloppy lover – has the same profane, arresting quality as Williams’ masturbation fantasy, only it works to opposite effect; “I lie on my back and moan at the ceiling” has been supplanted by “I never come but it don’t matter / I could be any other girl / My head planted on that pillow my eyes fixed up above / Is this what they meant when they sang Careless Love?” If I can still hear the former at the grocery store 10 years later, the latter feels deserving of more than a sliver of the same attention.

From here, Schmidt and Co. roll through a cycle of hardscrabble ballads about killers waylaid by inclement weather (“Snow and Rain”), lesbian lovers on the run from bigoted eyes (“Hell’s a Place”), and long shifts in a northeastern Ontario gold mine (“Fourteen Hour Day”). I’m not sure whether Russell or Schmidt do the bulk of the writing, but the results are uniformly impressive – these are songs that avoid sweeping generalities, training their gaze on small details like a hitchhiker’s thumbs in Quesnel and sooty boot stains on a flight of porch stairs in Timmins.

Veteran producer Rick White (Eric’s Trip, Elevator) knows enough to keep the no-frills backing of acoustic guitar, bass, organ and drums low in the mix, but he’s pretty generous about Stew Crookes’ pedal steel, which offers Schmidt a worthy foil. It dips and swoons through the waltz-time “Nothing’s Alright” and blankets her vulnerable vocals in “No Great Leap” (“If being poor’s my life’s crime / My body’s prison’s eastern standard time”). Instrumentally, things get gnarled towards the record’s end – the droning, low-hanging psychedelic haze of “Tirade of a Shitty Mom” and the naked slide notes of “Snow and Rain.” Yet, One Hundred Dollars is a band that sounds best putting their downbeat, idiosyncratic stamp on traditional roots forms. Forest of Tears is unrepentantly bleak, but some bummers are better than others and this one’s among the best of the year.

By Nathan Hogan - Dusted Magazine

"EXCLAIM: Regional 7 Inch Series"

$100 Canadian
By Vish Khanna

Hot on the worn heels of their beautiful album Forest of Tears, Toronto’s One Hundred Dollars present an ambitious seven-inch series, connecting them to communities across Canada. The hard-working country ensemble led by Simone Schmidt and Ian Russell has overcome adversity, namely Russell’s near-life-threatening bout with leukemia. Inspired by his rejuvenated health, the band is taking on notable new challenges, like the initiation of a regional seven-inch series of newly-composed songs about Canada, released individually by labels like Vancouver’s Deranged Records, Calgary’s Saved by Vinyl, Toronto’s Blocks Recording Club, and Sackville’s Sappy Records among others.

“We’d been approached by Deranged Records to do a seven-inch about a year-and-a-half ago and we got stoked about the idea of vinyl,” Schmidt explains. “The seven-inch record, as a medium, forces listeners to be deliberate — to get up and flip the record. So we’re getting all McLuhan on people and hoping the medium will affect people’s pace, and call them to reflect on the songs.” As for those songs, $100 will write A-sides ostensibly about the regions of each respective label, illuminating commonalities of living in Canada. Part I, for instance, is “14th Floor” about the cancer wing of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, while Blocks artist Owen Pallett plays fiddle on the B-side, “Migrant Workers,” inspired by seasonal labourers in Leamington, Ontario.

“‘14th Floor’ deals with what might be considered the overarching themes of the series — sickness and love in many forms and many places, in our relationship with Canada,” Russell says. “We love where we live and the people around us, but we’re not happy in this relationship. Country music is mostly songs about love and heartbreak and thoughtful love entails critique and entails work, not blind allegiance or patriotism.” - EXCLAIM MAGAZINE

"Toronto Star: One Hundred Dollars show us the money"

Dec 11, 2008
Ben Rayner
Pop Music Critic

Unlike, say, Jessica Simpson, Toronto's One Hundred Dollars plays country music that's raw, real and grounded in informed portraits of down-and-out humanity instead of pandering hillbilly stereotypes.

Naturally, then, emerging grassroots acclaim for the sextet's lingering, literate debut, Forest of Tears, has been fostered by the support of such homegrown indie-rock pillars as F---ed Up auteur Rick White.

Who are these people? One Hundred Dollars was born less than two years ago when untested singer/lyricist Simone Schmidt serenaded Ian Russell � formerly of Jon Rae and the River � with an original composition over the phone. They started writing songs together and doing shows as a duo and then as a trio with ace pedal-steel player Stew Crookes and quietly issued an EP titled Hold It Together last year. Drummer Dave Clarke and Russell's fellow River cast-offs Paul Mortimer (bass) and Jonathan Adjemian (organ) were hastily recruited to round out the band last winter after White was sweet-talked into manning the boards for the single, 13-hour session at an old schoolhouse near Orangeville that birthed Forest of Tears.

"We gave ourselves two days and we were done in a day," says Russell. "We had time for a great steak dinner. It was awesome. Everything about that day felt like magic."

Oh, yeah. That stuff. Russell was really sick with leukemia for a while there, and you can definitely hear some haggard frustration at the whole situation in "Nothing's Alright." He's doing okay now, though, and understandably waves the subject off as "so boring." If there was any positive side to his illness, though, it was that it provided him with endless housebound hours in which he and Schmidt could hone their chops.

"I didn't have any focus before. I never set out to be a singer," says Schmidt, who gave up other passions, such as doing outreach work for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, to keep watch over Russell while he recuperated. "That became my focus. My only creative outlet was songwriting."

Why are people all atwitter about the band? Because Forest of Tears heralds the arrival of Schmidt as a preternaturally gifted singer and lyricist, and of Russell as perhaps the only extant songwriting foil with the talent to make her dense, poetic diction sound effortlessly musical.

Somehow the two make it work, and as time goes on the rest of the talented players in One Hundred Dollars are bringing their own ideas to the table. Rest assured the music will lose none of its socially conscious bite. "We want to be super-critical," says Schmidt. "We don't want to ignore where we are."

Just the facts
WHO: One Hundred Dollars, with Richard Laviolette & the Oil Spills and the Pining

WHERE: Silver Dollar, 486 Spadina Ave. at College

WHEN: Friday, 9 p.m.

TICKETS: $8 at Rotate This and Soundscapes, $10 at the door - Toronto Star

"Toronto Weeklies Best of's 2008"

EYE MAGAZINE: Our Favorite Albums of the Year

Forest Of Tears (Blue Fog)
Describing battles against cancer, heartbreak and the TTC at rush hour, Toronto’s One Hundred Dollars portray authentic alt-country through tear-stained transfers. With pedal steel and sighing organs, singer Simone Schmidt’s broken croon tells stories with the humanity of a Raymond Carver tale. A dissatisfied lover counts ceiling tiles during “Careless Love,” as an early morning commute becomes working class poetry on “No Great Leap.” With a cover of Fucked Up’s “Blaze Of Glory” commissioned by the band, One Hundred Dollars transform the hardcore anthem into a wistful lament on “small town hucksters and big city thieves.” “Hell’s a place for our love,” Schmidt concludes. Like, Parkdale? CHANDLER LEVACK

EYE MAGAZINE: Best Live Show of the Year

"1. One Hundred Dollars with Rick White and Doug Paisley at the Horseshoe, July 25
The official T.O. launch for their full-length debut, Forest Of Tears (Blue Fog), was the show that convinced me that One Hundred Dollars is the best — or at least, my favourite — band in this city. An epic show (they played a staggering two sets in addition to the performances by the lovely Doug Paisley and CanRock hero/Forest Of Tears producer Rick White) on a steamy summer night, the One Hundred Dollars CD release reminded me why I love live music. Though they managed to sell out the Horseshoe, core members Simone Schmidt and Ian Russell and their bandmates seemed as relaxed as they’d be if they were playing a front-porch hoedown. The night was all whiskey, love, slow-dancing (!), dead-on covers (few can pull off Dolly Parton, but Schmidt managed to own “Jolene”) and beautiful, aching country tunes that sounded like they’d sprouted up from the floorboards of a rickety old barn."
- Sarah Liss



When leukemia struck Ian Russell in the summer of 2007, the guitarist for country rockers $100 and his bandmate Simone Schmidt used the downtime to write – and then record in 13 hours – their ass-kicking debut, Forest Of Trees. He’s since kicked cancer’s ass, too, allowing the six-piece to do what they do best: play live.


#2 $100

Forest Of Tears (Blue Fog)

Western-tinged six-piece chock-full of dusty authenticity harking back to the time before there was anything “nu” about country. - EYE MAGAZINE, NOW MAGAZINE


"Songs of Man" (Full Length), Outside Music, May 2011.

Regional 7": My Father's House (single), Deranged Records, December 2009

Regional 7": 14th Floor (single), Blocks Recording Co-op, December 2008.

Forest of Tears (Full length), Blue Fog Recordings, July 2008,

Hold It Together (EP) independent release, July 2007.



Simone Schmidt (voice), Ian Russell (acoustic guitar) and Stew Crookes (pedal steel) were set to release their first EP “Hold It Together,” in the summer of 2007, but Leukemia got up in Russell's blood. Holed up in the house for months together during the difficult chemotherapy protocol that followed, Schmidt and Russell took the time to craft more original tunes. Playing whenever the protocol allowed, they got a gig opening for Rick White (Eric’s Trip, Elevator), who invited them to record with him. Russell called on his former band mates from Jon-Rae & the River, Jonathan Adjemian (organ), David Clarke (the drums) and Paul Mortimer, (bass) to lend some texture to the tunes.

The result was "Forest of Tears," their first full length album on Blue Fog Recordings. Recorded in 13 hours at Elder Schoolhouse, "Forest of Tears" was long-listed for the Polaris Prize, and has garnered critical acclaim for its compelling story telling and masterful performances.

It's been three years, and the new LP Songs of Man reflects a change in personnel, approach and instrumentation. Recorded to tape over twelve days at Blue Rodeo's Woodshed studio, Songs of Man contains ten distinct narrative perspectives and the sounds to match them. Lead singer and lyricist Simone Schmidt draws from her experience as a speech facilitator. "In that job, I'd go around life with people who don't communicate verbally and assist in verbalizing what they're thinking to the rest of the world. I had a deep friend in one person I worked with, Aaron, and I would communicate for him all over the place - the doctor's office, the strip club, therapy, the bar. I got to know a lot of different people in ways I wouldn't have other wise. Wild insights into the human condition. One of the tunes on the record is Aaron's Song."

Schmidt continues her collaboration with Ian Russell (guitar), and welcomes Paul Mortimer (electric lead) as co-writer as well. Most often working in the balladic tradition, Schmidt delves into character sketches of a range of people, some tangential to broader dramas playing themselves out across songs. For instance, "Fires of Regret" is a letter from the man sung about in the title track of the band’s first LP Forest of Tears.

Forest of Tears was recorded live over 13 hours, after the band had played together for a six weeks. In contrast, each song on Songs of Man was treated differently by producer (and pedal steel player) Stew Crookes. "We set out to record one song from start to finish every day, experimenting with sounds while crafting many of the parts in studio as the recording evolved over that day. This allowed us to have different and well considered textures throughout the record."

Crookes has made records with such diverse artists as Doug Paisley, Jill Barber and Hawksely Workman. "The first time we met Stew, we were playing as a duet," guitarist Ian Russell says. "He approached us with an offer to record. Then he started playing with us, and three years later we took him up on the offer. It's lucky because you get all the familiarity and ease of working with an insider who happens to really know what he's doing as a producer."

One Hundred Dollars' instrumentation has changed as well. Jonathan Adjemian has moved on, so Schmidt fills in on keys and plays some guitar too. David Clarke remains on percussion, sometimes stepping outside the kit, and Russell, known for his unique acoustic guitar playing, plugs in the electric. Rookie Kyle Porter has entered the band on bass, shifting Paul Mortimer over to lead guitar. Mortimer's playing has become the signature sound of One Hundred Dollars' live show, as he seamlessly integrates Piedmont country-blues style picking with electric guitar bends and pedals.

With all these changes, Songs of Man moves to reinforce what One Hundred Dollars is best known for: a tight re-imagining of what the contemporary Country Song can be.