Review Summary: A quiet and occasionally gorgeous respite
When Charles Wesley Godwin released Seneca
back in 2019, he made the sort of immediate imprint that any aspiring artist should hope for. The West Virginia native’s rich and deep voice recalled a classic Appalachian charm that seemed to be sorely missing from mainstream country, and he employed a variety of lush instrumentation to complement those rugged traits. Seneca
willingly abided within country/Americana’s well-established walls, but it drew on something deep within the soul
of the genre that made it feel like more than just your run-of-the-mill country album.
Godwin’s sophomore LP How the Mighty Fall
is an attempt to expand upon that atmosphere. Orchestral strings and steel guitar weren’t absent from Seneca
, but they’re prominent here – serving as the driving force for many of these songs. An almost cinematic aura can be sensed from the get-go when ‘Over Yonder’ shifts from lush acoustics to lively fiddle, and again during the album’s best stretch – the three song run of ‘Strong’, ‘Bones’ and ‘Gas Well’. The latter of those is particularly impressive, blending intricate storytelling (and an intriguing murder tale) with winding acoustic picking, propulsive drumming, and some majestic brass woodwinds. Charles still has the ability to dial things back though, as he illustrates on the breathtaking ballad ‘Cranes of Potter’. It’s all indicative of an artist who has successfully diversified and broadened his sonic palette.
Where Godwin falls short on this album is – rather surprisingly – his vocal delivery. He has remarkable talent and that’s never in question across How the Might Fall
’s runtime, but many of these songs – whether he’s singing about something personal and heartbreaking or spinning an elaborate tale of murderous intrigue – are sung very much in the same fashion, featuring similar tone, level power, and equal timbre across the board. All of this leads to a sense of detachment, like we’re listening to a great story being told but without any emotional investment from the reader. Throughout How the Might Fall
, I kept waiting for Godwin’s poker face to crack – to get a glimpse of the human behind that cinematic gleam – and it never happened. Charles never lays it all on the line emotionally like he did on Seneca
, leaving a palpable gap between his pen-and-paper and the hearts of his listeners. As a result, despite its admirable qualities, How the Might Fall
ends up feeling like a little bit of a missed opportunity.
Despite the even-handed delivery that dulls the potential impact of these songs and their lyrics, How the Might Fall
remains a respectable follow-up to Godwin’s debut that will be a worthwhile pursuit for fans of country, folk, and Americana. It doesn’t hit quite as hard as Seneca
despite boasting more sonic diversity, but it offers a quiet and occasionally gorgeous respite – not unlike the album’s breathtaking autumnal artwork. The record also illustrates room for improvement: if Godwin eventually blends Seneca
’s emotional component with How the Mighty Fall
’s more adventurous whims, we could end up with a modern classic. He clearly has the potential to craft such an album; How the Mighty Fall
, however, seems more like a prologue to something much greater and yet-to-come.