There was a time when Charles Wesley Godwin was the biggest hidden gem in all of country. With the release of Seneca in 2019, Godwin firmly planted himself in the independent country zeitgeist.
Since then, Godwin has been one of the most prominent names in independent country. From touring on multiple runs with Zach Bryan and releasing a song with him to signing a major label deal with Big Loud earlier in the year, it seems the sky is truly the limit for the Lyin’ Low singer.
Today, I’m charged with the seemingly impossible task of ranking all three of his albums.
3. How the Mighty Fall
It feels downright criminal to have an album as good as How the Mighty Fall in last place. However, that goes to show just how prolific Godwin’s discography is.
It’s clear that this album is less focused on telling stories of Godwin and his upbringing and more on telling other people’s stories. Tracks like Jesse, Cranes of Potter and the title track, create beautiful, lived-in tales of fictional characters. Though they don’t have quite the same appeal for some as the real-life accounts of Seneca, they still provide an incredible amount of depth from Godwin as a writer and artist.
No track does this better than Cranes of Potter. Here, Godwin creates a post-Civil War world in which a promiscuous mayor’s daughter, Claire, finds herself caught up in a love triangle. Claire, unfortunately, is preyed upon by the town’s lunatic, Jeremiah. Jeremiah eventually kills Claire in a jealous rage and is hanged as punishment.
The song is just under four and a half minutes long; however, the world and characters Godwin created feel extremely lived-in.
To learn more about the track straight from Godwin himself, read our article about his inspiration for the track here.
Standout Track: Cranes of Potter
The album that started it all for the West Virginian singer/songwriter is one of the best debut albums of all time, in my opinion. Godwin flexes his songwriting prowess here which will carry over into all of his later projects seamlessly.
Seneca feels like an album that completely engulfs you in Godwin’s home state of West Virginia in the best way possible. From the first two tracks, (Windmill) Keep on Turning and Coal Country to Sorry for the Wait and the title track, the record transports you straight into the blue-collar lifestyle that Godwin and his family grew up living.
In between these contemplative, lyrical odes to Godwin’s home and loved ones, you some of the finest songs in Godwin’s discography, Hardwood Floors and Strawberry Queen.
Hardwood Floors, in particular, provides the perfect amount of energy needed on this record. The dynamic track builds to one of the most satisfying crescendos found in any song. From the muted acoustic guitar to the driving fiddle in the post-chorus to the bridge that slows down for one last burst in the final chorus, Hardwood Floors is the definition of a crowd-pleaser.
Standout Track: Seneca Creek
1. Family Ties
Coming in first is Godwin’s major label debut, Family Ties. Though it’s only been out for a couple of months as of writing, the record feels like a cumulation of what made both Seneca Creek and How the Mighty Fall so special and combines them into one, spectacular album.
You get a laser-focus on Godwin’s family and upbringing that was present on Seneca that takes the full production found in How the Might Fall up tenfold, resulting in an album that is just as pleasant musically as it is lyrically.
The record ultimately feels like a night around the fireplace at Godwin’s home rather than a typical country album. The album is a love letter to everyone in his family. From the self-reflective ode to his father, Miner Imperfections, to the delicate tribute to his daughter and son, Dance In Rain and Gabriel and gorgeous ballads to his wife, All Again, Soul Like Mine and Willing and Able, Godwin crafted an album that leaves no loved one left behind.
Family Ties is Godwin wearing his heart on his sleeve. Being that I have personally met and interviewed him before, I can say, without a doubt, that this album feels as genuine as he is. He’s a genuine husband, father and artist, and it can be felt throughout this entire album. Godwin shows a vulnerability that many contemporary male country musicians simply will not display here on Family Ties.
For my full thoughts on the record, read my review here.
Standout Track: Another Leaf