She Brought Me Gasoline – There Were Times: Album Review

Americana/Blues mix – with love from Zagreb, Croatia. She Brought Me Gasoline release There Were Times.

Release Date:  21st January 2022

Label: Self Release

Formats: Digital

She Brought Me Gasoline are new to At The Barrier, and I suspect they might be new to you also.  Hailing from Zagreb, Croatia, the band consists of songwriter /guitarist /banjoist /vocalist Kristijan Kevešević and his mates Zac (guitars, backing vocals), Zlatko (bass) and Markan (drums), and they play stripped-back bluesy tunes that take their inspiration from the deep-south sounds of Tennessee and Appalachia.  The band took their name from the Howlin’ Wolf song I Asked For Water (She Brought Me Gasoline).

There Were Times is the second album from SBMG and follows hot on the heels of the band’s acclaimed debut – 2020’s On Values And Trash.  Over the past couple of years, they’ve been attracting plaudits from all around Europe and the USA and their music has earned favourable comparisons to the likes of Bonny Prince Billy, Steve Earl and 16 Horsepower.

There Were Times is a fascinating album.  The instrumentation is tight and simple.  Built upon a solid bedrock of bass and never-too-fancy drums, the songs are laced with some wonderful guitar fills and licks and Kristijan adds just the right amount of banjo to keep things really interesting.  The production is raw and a genuine home-made feel adds to the album’s charm.  It’s probably fair to say that Kristijan’s vocal style is an acquired taste, but it will certainly grow on anyone who takes the trouble to absorb themselves in these songs.  The album’s theme is the “dehumanization of society and its transformation in an undesirable direction” and the songs deal with subjects such as love, trust, family constraints, industrial dereliction, the devastation of war and society’s downward drift.  Challenging subject matter – but made palatable by some well-crafted tunes and lots of masterful playing.

Current single Above the Regular Crowd gets things underway.  Shimmering and swampy with a tight rhythm and beautifully inter-weaving guitars, the single has already received significant amounts of airplay and is the perfect scene-setter for what’s to come.  The bluesy Heartbreaking has a nice sixties feel to it, particularly when the electric guitar cuts in, and Kristijan’s banjo provides an interesting counterpoint in the chorus sections.

Croatian actress and singer Maja Posavec provides a spine-chilling guest vocal on The Road – a slow ballad with more of those wonderful guitars and a banjo solo that shouldn’t really work but, somehow, does!  The guitars are at their very best on the pleasant instrumental, Robotny.  Kristijan and Zac manage to coax mandolin and bouzouki sounds from their instruments and the overall feel is a mix of Aegean and Oriental – very nice!

Last Night I Had a Dream and If You Want Me in Your Heart are both songs on which the production is stripped right back to basics – and the sparse sound helps the guitar and banjo solos to shine even more brightly.  If You Want Me in Your Heart is particularly pared-back and the background sounds of footsteps and closing doors give real emphasis to the home-made feel.

Let Me Move On – a song that deals with the frustration of routine family life and missed personal opportunities – is a nice rockabilly number with a solid bass/snare drum foundation and Till The Dawn is full, rich, polished and laced with wonderful chiming electric guitar.  The folky Vare Valium tells the story of the town of Vareš in Bosnia/Herzegovina, a former industrial centre that was devastated during the war in the former Yugoslavia.  Following the devastation, many of the town’s inhabitants – including Kristijan’s father – left in search of a better life.  Banjo and jaw’s harp give the song a jolly feel that lies somewhere between Appalachia and Australia – despite the ominous messages (“Son – beware of turmoil…”) in the song’s lyrics.

Things take a jazzy turn with penultimate track, Rose Petals – a lazy love song with brushed drums, delightful vocal harmonies and yet more of those tasty guitar licks, before the bluesy, anthemic These Were Times, the album’s title track, brings things to a close.  Described as “An acknowledgement of defeat – a statement that the world is entering a new and unwanted state,” it’s a song with a serious message.  Indeed, lines like “There were days when there was a line/ You wouldn’t cross for anything, and for no reason at all” are a sobering reflection of the precarious state of international society and the direction in which it is being driven – whether by authoritarianism or clownish incompetence…  But, yet again, the doom-laden message is wrapped up nicely inside churning guitars and soaring solos.

Tight, home-made, interesting, enjoyable and well-played are all words I would use to describe There Were Times.  A slice of bluesy Americana – with love from Zagreb.

Watch the Official video to Above the Regular Crowd – the album’s opening track and the She Brought Me Gasoline’s current single – here:

She Brought Me Gasoline: Website / Facebook / Instagram

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