Published Jul 28, 2008Though their masterful debut album Forest of Tears has a flood of pain coursing through it, Toronto's One Hundred Dollars render their country songs with unnerving, conflicted resolve. Forming the band after singing George Jones and Tammy Wynette tunes to each other, Simone Schmidt and Ian Russell discovered that, with her lyrics and his music, they possess a singular voice together.
Back home from an early tour last August, Russell had unusual bumps on the back of his neck examined and was diagnosed with leukemia. With Schmidt taking care of him, Russell spent the winter enduring chemotherapy and, luckily, entering remission. "I think because Ian was sick in bed and gracefully dealing with excruciating pain, I didn't go out either," Schmidt says. "I had to stop a lot of work that normally interferes with creative processes so, if Ian hadn't gotten sick, we likely wouldn't have this album. That became the focus."
Featuring pedal steel ace Stew Crookes and fellow members of Russell's last band, Jon-Rae and the River, Forest of Tears has a full-bodied sound thanks to noted musician/engineer Rick White, who offered his singular services after playing a show with $100. "When he asked us to work with him, we were like 'Don't pee your pants,'" Russell laughs. "He invited us to this schoolhouse to record and we did it all in 13 hours. Rick was like another member of the band."
Even without Russell's harrowing ordeal, One Hundred Dollars would write lead-heavy songs. Boiling with rage-induced despair, Schmidt's compositions portray life's grim details. "I write about common themes of pain and people specifically hear this as women's pain – women who've left or have to leave," she explains. "Like 'No Great Leap' is about a woman travelling the same subway line her entire life, frustrated. She deals with things a lot of people in Toronto do on hard days. You think about jumping; some people choose to live, some choose to die."