Bjørn Tomren – The Betsey Trotwood – 20th March 2019

Everybody likes receiving an invite to a ‘showcase’. Obviously the lure of free beer is simply a hook and the chance to see new music in a live setting the deal-breaker. 

Propeller Recordings are rapidly becoming one of my favourite labels. Dedicated to the promotion of Norwegian acts, their thorough and diligent UK based coordinator has invited me to some right cool stuff in recent weeks (here) and (here).

And it’s because of Georgie that I’m standing in this basement at the Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell on a Wednesday evening to watch an act newly-signed to Propeller, Bjørn Tomren, do his thing.

A word about the Betsey Trotwood first. The more that one scratches at London’s surface, the more you uncover great bases of entertainment. The Betsey is a dinky pub where streets converge. The basement, at a guess, holds no more than 50 though it could be deceptive with nooks, crannies and alcoves all offshoots of the main space. It would appear that they hold folk sessions down here, ukulele jams and knitting circles. It has community and great charm.

Bjørn shuffles to a bar-stool, emerging out of one of the nooks. He has a self-deprecating manner that verges on the fatalistic; he’s an observer, a storyteller with a dry sense of humour and it’s hard not to warm to his folky reference-laden Americana.

After celebrating Vera Lynn and questioning the validity of there ever being ‘bluebirds over Dover’, Bjørn launches into a story about Eartha Kitt’s invite to the White House in 1968. Eartha speaks out about the Vietnam war and sees her career in the States nosedive as a result. Bjørn champions her and other protestors in his song, 68. 

He might be Norwegian but his outlook is truly global. A traditional Norwegian folk song complete with a form of throat singing is included but so to a tune about Drinking in Helsinki, an opportunity to literately reference the influence that the mathematical best-seller ‘The Drunkard’s Walk – How Randomness Affects Your Life’ had on his thinking.

Showcases, by their very nature, can be short affairs but I really don’t want this to end when Bjørn says that he’s going to close his set with a cover of Hank William’s Long Gone Lonesome Blues. Most of us gathered are more than aware of the innate darkness and suicidal sadness lingering within this tune but can’t help raise a smile as Bjorn effortlessly and impressively takes on the yodelling parts.

It’s just another string to his bow. Propeller Recordings have successfully whetted the appetite of those gathered regarding their latest signing. You can see why they’ve trusted in Bjørn. 

 

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