West Virginia is far more than meets the eye. A native of Morgantown, singer-songwriter Charles Wesley Godwin paints a rich and honest portrayal of his homeland and its people with his debut album. Seneca is a moving snapshot of his 26 years of life and well-soiled roots in the Appalachian hills, a backdrop that has given birth to some of the most intelligent and hard-working people in the country.
When you partake in his gripping storytelling, it comes as no surprise that Godwin’s shared bills with the likes of Shooter Jennings, Tyler Childers, Colter Wall, Luke Combs, Aaron Watson, David Allan Coe, Sundy Best, Waymore’s Outlaws and Nicholas Jamerson. Godwin is truly at home on stage and alongside like-minded musicians who go against the grain and shake up the status quo.
“This album will give people a really good look into what it’s like culturally in Appalachia. People have a way-off view from the outside of what we’re all about, what our priorities are and how smart we are,” says Godwin. The record is steeped to perfection in gentle mountain streams and a way of living that is surprisingly universal. Through earnest, sinewy craftsmanship, he mitigates the stereotypes that plague the state and reconfigures expectations.
But it was clear this was his destiny. When he returned to the United States and later graduated from WVU in 2014, he realized he had a great talent in singing and playing bluegrass and traditional country music. Godwin soon started touring and playing out professionally, beginning a full-time music career in 2015. He enjoyed a short run in a band called Union Sound Treaty, but conflicting schedules led to lackluster shows and overall unreliability.
It was time to branch out on his own, and that’s when Seneca began to take shape. The album, especially in such moments as “The Last Bite” and “Sorry for the Wait,” is an amalgam of influences, running from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Simon & Garfunkel to The Allman Brothers. Godwin’s voice echoes off the weathered but still vibrant Appalachian countryside, rumbling up the peaks and tumbling back down into the valleys, and his heart-torn confessionals are born of the earth itself.
Charles Wesley Godwin carries his past firmly on his shoulders. He hasn’t been damaged by such a symbolic act, however, and he’s only grown wiser and more aware. On Seneca, he proves to be a fitting ambassador for West Virginia and a people long misunderstood and tragically forgotten. If anything, listeners will rediscover their own wants and desires within the album’s sonic walls and universal themes of compassion, strength, and unity.