Local musician Brian Johannesen weaves politics, love, and humor throughout ambitious album Holster Your Silver

Brian Johannesen’s second full album covers a lot of ground, including everything from current politics to disenchanted love.


Addie Bushnell, Arts Reporter

On Jan. 31, Iowa City singer-songwriter Brian Johannesen released his second full-length album *Holster Your Silver*. The musician’s Spotify profile describes his sound as being “firmly rooted in the Midwest”, and *Holster Your Silver* stays true to that definition. The album weaves together elements of country, folk, blues, and Americana to create a sound that will be attractive to lovers of other heartland musicians, such as John Prine.

While *Holster Your Silver* tackles many themes, the current political climate is an issue that Johannesen focuses on in several tracks. “Copper Queen” is an anthem that protests against corruption and greed. In the chorus, Johannesen sings “Oh, I’ll never bend my knee to the copper queen.”

The song ends on an deep, ominous note that warns of more struggles to come. In “Music Business Blues Breakdown,” Johannesen criticizes the defunding of institutions like the NEA to finance the military, stating that without art and culture, there’s nothing left to fight for.

“Let me break it down for you, Donald,” quips Johannesen. “Let’s see if you can follow.”

Johannesen’s songwriting has a good natured sense of humor reminiscent of the witty lyrics of classic country artists. “Tired (Last Time I Saw Her)” features tongue-in-cheek, sometimes nonsensical lyrics that give the song both charm and bite. With the talky vocals and slightly absurd humor set to a country rock beat, the song sounds like a mashup of influences, as if Johannesen was creating an alternate world in which Bob Dylan was the front-man of the Rolling Stones or the E Street Band.

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“Way Back Down There” and “Fremont” are among the weaker songs on the album. While “Way Back Down There” is a simple, folky tune that is underwhelming musically and lyrically, “Fremont” features an upbeat charm that has potential but ultimately falls short. Johannesen lists a multitude of country keywords like Willie Nelson, corner bar jukeboxes, sunburns and Bombay gin, but the result is a song that feels overly manufactured and formulaic.

Despite these few pitfalls, *Holster Your Silver* is a musically and thematically strong album, and is triumphant on its slower, more vulnerable tracks. “Damn These Saints” begins with the languidness of a slow dance. The song is sleepy and melancholic, and gives the spotlight to Johannesen’s stripped vocals and intimate, genuine lyrics.

“Damn this place, damn the weather, damn these saints, damn the whispers saying it’ll get better,” sings Johannesen on the chorus.

The titular track, “Holster Your Silver,” is the sweeping, emotional finale to the album. Johannesen sings with a strong, gravelly voice over an orchestral background. The track is a beautiful ode to Midwestern beauty, to repairing relationships, and to the forgiving cycles of life.

“But it’s now, so holster your silver,” sings Johannesen. “Yeah it’s now, the twilight of a Midwestern winter, when up from the ground come the red wings and fireflies to sing for me now.”

When the track fades away, the album feels complete.