Magic At The Mother Church: Charles Wesley Godwin Meets The Moment During Two Sold-Out Ryman Shows

Music

Something special happened at the Mother Church of Country Music this week.

The Ryman Auditorium was built in 1892. It hosted the Grand Ole Opry for 30 years, and has had thousands of legendary performers step onto its stage in its storied history.

And on Thursday night when Charles Wesley Godwin took the stage for his first show as a headliner at the iconic venue, it was clear that he was ready to meet the moment of playing the Mother Church.

It was a moment that had been a long time coming for the West Virginia native. He played his first paid gig a decade ago at a lingerie fashion show while studying abroad in Estonia, and made a name for himself playing in his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia.

But when his debut album, Seneca, dropped in 2019, it was clear that there was something special there.

Charles signed his first record deal with Big Loud earlier this year, and released his third album Family Ties this fall.

And for two nights at the Ryman Auditorium, the culmination of all of those years of hard work was on full display – a reward not only for Charles and his Allegheny High Band, but for everybody lucky enough to be in the room to watch his incredible talent shine on one of country music’s biggest stages.

It was clear that Charles was fired up for the show from the moment that he stepped on stage, pounding his chest to the anthemic “Cue Country Roads.” And both nights, the audience was ready to meet his energy and leave it all out there.

The result was a magical 2+ hour show each night that had all the peaks and valleys of the mountains that Charles calls home.

The screams of “Strike Me Down!” were ear-splitting during “Family Ties.”

But as he performed songs like the heartbreaking “Sorry For the Wait,” or closed out his set with an acoustic version of “Seneca Creek,” you could hear a pin drop.

If you’ve seen Charles before, you know that nobody has as much fun at a Charles Wesley Godwin show as Charles Wesley Godwin. And that excitement that he brings to the stage carried over into the crowd, which had the historic building shaking as he and Allegheny High band powered through full-throttle performances of songs like “Another Leaf” and “Shrinks and Pills,” which featured his guitar player Al Torrence running through the balcony on Thursday night.

The energy in the building reached a fever pitch when Charles returned to the stage for an encore. By the time he strummed the first chords to “Hardwood Floor” on Friday night, it was already pushing midnight. Many in the crowd had been there both nights, and had spent nearly 5 hours on their feet throughout that emotional experience that he brings to his shows.

But nobody was tired. There was plenty left in the tank. And the ol’ Ryman Auditorium was quite literally shaking as the boots stomped along with one of CWG’s most popular songs.

And of course he ended both shows with an ensemble performance of the John Denver classic “Country Roads,” with the entire crowd becoming West Virginians in that moment.

Now, I also have to take a minute to talk about the opening acts for the shows. Openers set the tone for the evening, and a good opener builds the excitement in the room for the headlining act while showcasing their own music.

And there were no better openers that Charles could have brought with him for his Ryman headlining debut than Cole Chaney and Wyatt Flores.

It’s not often that the crowd stands for the entire opening act, but the ol’ pews at the Ryman weren’t necessary for Chaney’s opening set on Friday as he kept everybody on their feet with his coal dust-soaked Appalachian country sound.

And when Wyatt Flores dropped a big announcement at the end of his set on Thursday night, the crowd was cheering so loud that nobody seemed to catch it when the 22-year old revealed he would be making his Grand Ole Opry debut next month.

When it all was said and done, the result was an experience that met the moment for Charles Wesley Godwin, who’s quickly becoming a household name in country music – for reasons that were on full display at the Ryman.

I’ve seen quite a few shows at the Mother Church. Shows by artists who, by all “metrics” valued by Nashville labels are bigger than Charles Wesley Godwin.

But I’ve never felt the energy in the room like it was for those two nights.

I’ve also seen shows at the Ryman by major label artists that have been announced as “sold out” where I looked around the room and had to question whether that was true. But on both Thursday and Friday, there was no doubt that Charles had filled up the Mother Church – not only with his fans, but with music and energy that are unmatched in today’s country music.

Was it the best concert I’ve ever seen? It’s easily in the conversation.

I have a feeling those two shows will be a breakout moment for Charles Wesley Godwin. He sold out two nights at one of country music’s most historic venues, and met the moment with a big statement that Nashville simply won’t be able to ignore.

There’s no other way to describe it: It was magic at the Mother Church.

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