Published Jun 10, 2016Simone Schmidt has been an important figure on the Toronto roots scene for more than a decade now. She deserves wider national recognition, but the fact that she has put out material under the names One Hundred Dollars, Fiver and the Highest Order may have been to her detriment. Each project for the prolific songstress has its own distinctive quality, and the cosmic country vibe of 2013's Highest Order debut album If It's Real certainly pleased these ears. The band are still holding attention with this second outing, a real gem.
The strengths of Schmidt's skill as a lyricist and her husky and authentic vocals remain on the aptly titled Still Holding, while her comrades up their game instrumentally. The first few cuts are relatively orthodox, but then it seems that lysergic-fuelled adrenaline kicks in. "I'd Ask You to Stay" begins with a nice Sadies-like guitar twang then, halfway through, launches into a trippy, psychedelic guitar freakout before gradually easing back into the refrain. The following "Keep A Window Open" sports a similar dynamic, with the guitar solos pushing even further into the cosmos with a Dream Syndicate-meets-Crazy Horse vibe.
Guitar workouts are rather frowned upon these days, but these ones show their enduring appeal. They're delivered by Paul Mortimer (an alumnus of One Hundred Dollars), and he occasionally takes a vocal lead, enhancing the record's variety. Bassist Kyle Porter and drummer Simone TB contribute effective chugging honkytonk rhythms, confirming the group's sonic empathy. Still Holding is a winner. (Idée Fixe Records)