It’s no secret that Godwin is one of the fastest-rising stars in the entire genre. Between signing a record deal with Big Loud back in March and touring with Zach Bryan for the better part of two years, Godwin’s steady rise in the genre has been a fun one to watch. Many independent country fans have been patiently waiting for the Temporary Town singer to reach the heights of fellow indie giants, Zach Bryan, Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson.
I truly believe that Family Ties is going to be Godwin’s break-out album much like Bryan’s American Heartbreak in 2022. The similarities are quite striking. At a lengthy 19 songs and an hour and ten minutes, it’s the first major label release from Godwin and most importantly, it’s an incredible album.
Family Ties ultimately feels like a night around the fireplace at Godwin’s home rather than a typical country album. When you hear the title, Family Ties, you might think to yourself, “Oh yeah, there’s going to be a few sappy nods to his upbringing, but the rest will be your cliché country fare.” This album is the quite opposite.
In short, 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.
Speaking of leaves, Another Leaf is the standout track among this already-stacked tracklist. The song has a certain spark that begs you to roll the window and bask in the musicianship present on the track. The tempo changes, the incredibly melodic chorus and the final breakdown in the latter half of the song make it feel like a must-have on any of Godwin’s live shows. The euphemism, “add another leaf on the tree tonight” is such a fun, unique way to say “let’s make a baby” while still tying (no pun intended) the theme of family together.
Another interesting track present on the album that actually breaks away from the family theme is 10-38. For many, it might seem like an odd placement in this family-centric album, but the story behind the song is actually quite interesting. Godwin wrote this song as a sequel to Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper,” an underrated track from Springsteen’s 1982 record, Nebraska. Using similar chord progressions, strumming patterns and barebones production, it sounds like it was ripped directly from the album. Instead of being from the perspective of a civilian like Springsteen’s song, 10-38 is from the state trooper’s. While still capturing the gritty mood of the original, it serves as an interesting alternative perspective. Listening to both songs back-to-back is such a surreal experience, feeling like they were recorded by the same writer in the same era. It’s an interesting song from both a songwriting perspective and an artistic standpoint.
The aforementioned Dance In Rain is another one of my favorite tracks on the record. While there have been many father-daughter country songs throughout time, Dance In Rain has a special feeling that only prolific writers like Godwin can capture. The lyrics paint an incredibly delicate picture of a father wishing the best for his daughter. The central chorus, “Dance in the rain. Walk with words from your old man when I’m part of this land. Hope you remember now and then,” is such a haunting reminder of how short life is while simultaneously wishing for his daughter to remember his impact on her life. The act of dancing in the rain ultimately becoming a metaphor for enjoying the perceived negatives of life is such a brilliantly simple lyric from Godwin.
My only minor negative with Family Ties would be its lengthy runtime. As previously stated, it’s over an hour at 70 minutes. While it’s not like there are bad songs present throughout, quite the opposite actually, I would have liked this album to be broken up into two parts potentially. If Godwin could have cut down a couple of the non-family-centric songs and turned them into a follow-up EP while still leaving roughly 12-14 tracks on the record, it most likely would have resulted in a slightly more cohesive listening experience. However, I feel like I’m simply nitpicking at this point.
Overall, 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 it can possibly be. He’s a genuine husband, father and artist, and it can be felt throughout this brilliant album. Godwin shows a vulnerability that many contemporary male country musicians simply will not display here on Family Ties.