By Matthew Martin
West Virginia ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes. There's poverty. There's wide-reported drug abuse. And there's a sense of this almost pride that you're NOT from West Virginia. But, on the other side of that coin are the people from West Virginia. If you actually meet folks from West Virginia, they're nothing like those silly caricatures you read/hear/joke about. They're proud. They're proud of what the state stood for during the Civil War. They're proud of what the state provided to the country with the mining industry. They're proud of the unions that began in that same mining industry. And over the years some of the best Appalachian music has come out of those hills and hollers.
Charles Wesley Godwin is someone I believe will become a household name very soon. There's nothing but authenticity dripping from every word and chord that pours out of him. And he has the voice to carry these sincere, heartfelt songs of growing up in West Virginia. Songs that are so specific to the Appalachian region that you almost feel you're there as you listen to him sing. This all comes through on his fantastic debut album Seneca. I was pleased to find out that in a stripped-down, solo live show, nothing was lost.
We went to see Charles at The Vinyl Lounge which is part of the Gypsy Sally's venue in D.C. We had once seen Sturgill Simpson play solo at this place to about 50 people. So, this felt similar- like I needed to see Charles Wesley Godwin before he started making it to venues where the crowds were growing. He began the show around 10PM.
The first couple of songs were new songs as far as I was concerned ("Jesse" and "Bones"). I don't believe they were from his previous band, either. These songs were incredibly well-written and true to CWG's young, but quite impressive career. CWG would then go on to play a great mix of songs from his debut album ("Coal Country", "Strawberry Queen", and "Shrinks and Pills") as well as songs from his previous band's (Union Sound Treaty) output ("Peaked" and "Hazelton"). He threw in a couple of covers as well from folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Martin.
CWG played for those of us there for around an hour and a half. It was an intimate affair and one that I am incredibly glad I got to witness. The songs of CWG are smart and emotional. West Virginia pride is rich in the tradition of the songs. He wants you to know that WV is still here. With songs like "Here In Eden" he calls his WV brothers to arms. You get the idea that CWG would never apologize for where he's from. And, that's what makes his songs so relatable and so damn irresistible. We all want that sense of pride of our home. CWG has it damn spades.
To drive this point home, CWG pulled a barstool out from the bar for his last song. He stepped away from his mic. He unplugged his guitar. And he sang with all of his heart and soul the WV standard: "Country Roads". We all sang along. We felt connected. And, we walked away from the show feeling like we'd just watched something pretty special.
If you are anywhere near CWG, go see him. It is special. He's building something. He will be someone we all will say we remember when he was still building that something. Until he comes to your place, go buy his music; his solo album and his previous band's album. You won't be disappointed.