Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and likewise all great acts have to start somewhere. Belwood is all about supporting new music, and transatlantic duo Samuel Taylor and Rebecca Van Cleave are one of the most exciting musical projects the site has supported thus far. Blending classic Americana with modern English folk, and with plenty of addictive indie pop hooks for good measure, Ophelia’s music has something to offer everyone. Having just released their debut single, I caught them at their homecoming gig at the lovely Greystones in Sheffield for the final stop of their Vagabond Tour.
The evening saw two support acts take to the stage. First up, Andrew Morley entertained us with his own acoustic creations. Though perhaps not the most gifted singer, nor the most accomplished guitarist, his songwriting had a wealth of charm, and unmistakable heart and sincerity. He exhibited the kind of down-to-earth demeanor of someone who is in the business just for the sheer joy of making music. Ed Cosens, of Reverend and the Makers fame, was up next, treating us to a rare solo performance. As one of the founding members of one of Britain’s most underrated bands it should come as no surprise that the songwriting here was exemplary. Effortlessly cool and composed, he performed a set of original compositions as well as ‘Last To Know’ from the band’s latest record Mirrors.
The atmosphere on the night was quite unlike any other gig that I can think of. Relaxed would be the key word here, with all three acts chatting with the crowd between sets. With candles set out on every table and surrounding the stage, it gave the venue a warm rustic glow. I’m sure health and safety might have a few issues, but there’s no denying its thoroughly charming aesthetic. Ophelia breathed new life into the EP tracks that I have quickly grown to love. The bluesy guitar of ‘I Can’t Dream About You Anymore’ had a newfound edge and menace, their debut single ‘Whip Of The Wheel‘ was a note-for-note match for the studio version. The harmonies were simply gorgeous for their heartfelt rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel No.2’, and their upcoming second single ‘A Little Too Late’ proved to be the perfect indie rock anthem for music loving vagabonds.
Much of the set consisted of as-yet unreleased tracks from their forthcoming debut album. With the exception of ‘The Artist’, a reworking of a track written by Becca’s father in the 70s, most of the songs I can only guess at their names, but the mystery simply makes them all the more enticing. Though together their voices are an ideal match, it’s the individual songs that showed the inner workings of two songwriters from very different backgrounds. Sam’s songs, with him being the more experienced artist, had the more eclectic arrangements and biggest hooks, while Becca’s drew on her background as an actress to impart greater emotion and create an arresting mood. Each have their own style, but with plenty of common ground to pool their talents. The impression that stayed with me from the evening was a need to hear more, to hear those new songs again. For a band just starting out that’s just the way you want to create a fanbase, and I have no doubt that new fans will feel that same pull on future tours.