Charles Wesley Godwin deservedly became one of the most hyped singer-songwriters of 2021 following the Nov. 5 release of How the Mighty Fall, the follow-up to his comparably praised debut album Seneca.
Much of this acclaim comes because Godwin maintains a strong sense of place across both albums. The beauty of West Virginia sets the scene for each song, with several selections grounded in the folk music and bluegrass instrumentation associated with Appalachia.
Don't sweat it if you've never stepped foot on Appalachian soil. Just as visiting New Jersey isn't necessary to fall in love with Bruce Springsteen's music, experience in coal country isn't a requirement to connect with Godwin's lyrical looks at the human condition. Indeed, Godwin follows Mark Twain's advice and writes what he knows without telling stories only relatable to neighbors in Morgantown.
The following five selections from How the Mighty Fall best capture why Godwin's contributions to Americana make him one of the year's most compelling country-adjacent acts.
5. "Lost Without You"
Godwin and producer Al Torrence consistently pick the right instrumentation for each set of lyrics, from the banjo-driven melodies of "Lyin' Low" to the regional folk grace meets rocking country muscle of "Blood Feud." On "Lost Without You," less-is-more sparseness gives way to rustic yet majestic fiddle accompaniment.
4. "Cranes of Potter"
This one deserves comparisons to two interconnected artists known for setting narrative histories to music: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
3. "Temporary Town"
Time spent living in Ohio inspired one of Godwin's best-written musical love letters to West Virginia. Anyone who's longed to return to familiar ground will relate, even if home is far away from the Mountain State.
2. "Gas Well"
Godwin punctuates a desperate farmer's struggle in this Steve Earle-esque character study with such poetic lines as "Empty pockets make sinners out of bona fide saints, swore to my daddy never tarnish his name."
This powerhouse of a song's clever Steve Prefontaine namedrop should already be hooking Shazam searches and playlist adds whenever it's heard in the wild.