More People Really Should Know About: Charles Wesley Godwin


To those who question why an artist who recently headlined two nights at the Ryman Auditorium requires further recognition… I apologise unreservedly. In the americana music world the man’s star has already ascended and he really doesn’t need AUK telling folk how good he is. AUK didn’t get sent his last two albums for review. Fred Arnold’s a fan. Godwin has been mentioned in dispatches over the years. A Martin Johnson interview in November 2021 and more recently by Helen Jones describing his new album Family Ties as: “a reliably rootsy epic double album”. Can I get away with blagging… still more people should know about Charles Wesley Godwin?

Charles Wesley Godwin seemed to come out of nowhere in 2019 with ‘Seneca’. Andrew Frolish wrote a very positive review of the album in AUK. It was a classy debut that conjured up a present day Appalachia while balancing a sincere respect for the past, that elusive crowd-pleasing standard already written in ‘Hardwood Floors’. But there were many other outstanding tracks such as ‘Sorry for the Wait’ and ‘Pour it On’. Frolish summed up the album well by saying, “although specifically about Godwin’s Appalachian homeland, the importance of place and the lives of hardworking people are ultimately universal themes that deserve a wide audience”.

Then the pandemic struck. Instead of promoting the album by going out on the road, Godwin found himself in lockdown. He used the time well contemplating what was important to him and continuing to hone his songwriting skills. The result was ‘How the Mighty Fall ‘(2021). This sophomore is an audacious double album, the setting still in Appalachia but with broader narratives, the music stretching from traditional Appalachian back-porch folk with additional fiddle and steel… all the way up to raucous Blue Ridge rock. Highlights are ‘Jesse’, ‘Strong’ (Springsteen-esque) and ‘Lyin’ Low’. With this album began two years of touring that continued to build up a fanbase and a reputation for putting on a great live show. Unfortunately, the hint in Johnson’s interview of an intended visit to the UK in 2023 didn’t materialise.

Overcoming a creative block was eventually solved by returning to those closest to him. With ‘Family Ties’ (2023) he had got himself a record label, yet another audacious double. It could have been twee but it isn’t, a testament (cue another Springsteen reference here) to the ties that bind. There are some beautiful songs displaying a modern masculinity. Godwin is now a father… a fore-bearer himself. Men can still be physically strong and protective but Godwin is not interested in finding excuses or proportioning blame. His words are of respect, understanding, resilience, hope and kindness. Not all the nineteen tracks are a complete success and the first half of the album is by far the strongest. Family highlights are ‘Miner Imperfections’ penned for his father, ‘The Flood’ for his mother, ‘Gabriel’ for his son and ‘Dance in the Rain’ for his daughter. ‘Willing and Able’ is a love-letter to his wife. ‘Another Leaf’ suggesting more offspring on the way.

I like to think Godwin’s songs are the antithesis to ‘try that in a small town’ or ‘rich men north of Richmond’. I don’t rightly know if Mr Godwin dreams of blue donkeys or red elephants but he’s living in what could be a political nightmare for rational Americans. Recently the orange agent of chaos won his first caucus in Iowa. It will not be his last. On ‘Family Ties’ Godwin (just about) gets away with covering adopted West Virginian John Denver’s 1971 standard ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’. I’d like to think it is a subtle way of declaring which side of a widening divide he belongs to by covering the great activist’s song. Sure, Godwin’s music will be misinterpreted by some country fans wearing their red MAGA baseball hats. Remember when Ronald Reagan tried to hijack Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ in 1984? Godwin cites Springsteen as a big influence. The inclusion of the track ‘10:38′ on ‘Family Ties’ has been described as a bit of an oddball by a few reviewers but it blatantly mimics (pays homage to) Springsteen’s ‘State Trooper’. Godwin also looks a bit like a hairier and chunkier (tour-fed) version of the 80’s Boss complete with western shirt and bandanna. But any further comparisons or hipster irony is swept aside with Godwin’s own sincerity and conviction… and with that voice you’d sell your soul to own. Godwin’s his own Boss and he orchestrates some damn fine country music.

We can only hope Charles Wesley Godwin sends his next album to AUK to review and has plans for a tour of the UK soon. Frolish summed up the man’s music way back: “Although the songs sometimes appear bleak, there’s pride and hope in the stories Godwin sings”. The right kind of pride and a shared hope. Universal messages.

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Andy Short

No sure how I missed this guy. Just listened to ‘Family Ties’ which is an excellent album. Now for the back catalogue.


Wow this isn’t one sided at all. He’s not a political person he doesn’t let the public know what side he is on and that is great. Stop bringing politics to everyone and just listen to him being the great singer he is.