One Hundred Dollars: Songs Of Man

One Hundred Dollars  Cover

Outside

If this is how One Hundred Dollars deals with the sophomore jinx, they should get out and court all other jinxes. Songs Of Man is a ten-song collection of alt-country, which raises the genre bar with both music and lyric.

The production is attentive and sympathetic; most of the effects focus on enhancing and showcasing Simone Schmidt's gravely, haunting voice. Essential, as the band tackles some heavy current issues and hers is the means to do so without coming over all judgemental.

“Black Gold’ looks at the price paid by the Fort McMurray oil workers, far from home and loved ones and beset by all the temptations money can buy. The elegant and sweetly melodic “Where the Sparrows Drop” focuses on a young couple separated by war and what longing and need can do to the strongest bonds. The music’s a mix of either traditional acoustic (Aaron’s Song’) or countrified rock (‘Waiting For Another’) and the band handles either approach with confidence and a love of playing.

It’s all liberally sprinkled with quirky arrangements and surprising time changes to keep things interesting. If they don’t do the trick, Schmidt’s winning ways with the bitter and the sweet will. Check the way she undercuts the classic country tropes of ‘Everybody Wins’ with caustic tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

While she shares a number of affinities with Neko Case, and wrote the bulk of the album, it’s worth noting that at no point does it sound like a Simone Schmidt solo joint. This young unit exhibits the chemistry of a more seasoned band, all the better to create some of the most intelligent modern protest music around.

Lenny Stoute