Musicians can never predict what will provide the inspiration for a song or an album. With Brian Johannesen’s new album Holster Your Silver, part of the inspiration was moving into a new house and dealing with the declining health and death of his mother-in-law. With a mix of upbeat songs and muted and pensive songs, Johannesen shows that music was an effective way for him to process all the changes that occurred in such a short period.
There is something immediately familiar about “Copper Queen,” and it’s not just the instrumentation, although it is fairly traditional with fiddle and pedal steel. The greater familiarity is in the rasp of Johannesen’s vocals, which is similar to Steve Earle.
Lots of songs have been written about the seeming futility of being a musician with the struggles of family expectations and particularly the struggle of a musician to actually get paid. Johannesen adds his own with “Music Business Blues Breakdown.” The lighthearted storytelling in this song is reminiscent of Todd Snider. The upbeat, rollicking melody – especially the piano part by David Zollo – rivals some tunes by Mojo Nixon and The Toadliquors.
“Fremont” is another upbeat song which features some great fiddle by Jared Rabin and a chugging rhythm by Matt Bernemann (drums) and Ryan Bernemann (bass). This is about a rambler who idolizes classic country artists and doesn’t like to remain still and likes to be “anywhere but here”. On the flip side are songs like “Damn These Saints”, which is a muted, slow country song complete with some lonesome pedal steel by Packy Lundholm. All of the lyrics are pretty profound, but the hardest-hitting line is when he sings, “Damn all the whispers saying it’ll get better” and leaves you feeling like you’ve just been hit in the gut. This is a song that goes great with a glass of whiskey.
This album provides a pretty good snapshot of day-to-day life. Johannesen shows the ability to make you laugh, dance, and think in the span of just nine songs. In the tradition of other middle American songwriters, he writes earnest songs with a bit of a gritty quality. More than that, he writes songs that make you feel something. Holster Your Silver will be available everywhere on January 31. Order your copy here.