Saving Country Music’s 2021 Album of the Year

This isn’t just about choosing the best album of a given year. This is about choosing the album whose impact will be felt for many years to come; that will sound just as good, if not better in subsequent years than it does now, even to future generations who may not even born yet, just like we enjoy the country albums of yesteryear, released well before our own era.

Time is the only true arbiter of quality in music. Here on the ground and in the thick of it—with all our little tastes and trends and biases clouding our judgement—all that we can do is offer up our best guesses about what the “best” album is, and hope that time doesn’t render that choice as foolish.

But one way you can spy an album that perhaps will be graced with the kind of longevity it takes to be considered the best of a given year is how it grows on you, keeps getting better the more you listen, reveals little details and unlocks bits of wisdom and knowledge with subsequent spins, until it beckons to be heard again and again, and refuses to be ignored or worn out.

How The Mighty Fall by Charles Wesley Godwin has been that kind of record in 2021, where the complexity of songcraft means you don’t tire of listening, where the diversity of sound and subject matter make for a fulfilling experience that satiates most all of your musical appetites, and where the honesty graces the work with authenticity. That is why in an incredible year for country music, and among a murderer’s row of fellow Album of the Year nominees, How The Mighty Fall bests them all.

There is a reason that albums still matter, and why they matter more than singles and EPs, no matter what some try to tell you. From an album, an entire career can spring forth, and a foundation can be set for life. This is what happened for previous Saving Country Music Album of the Year winners such as Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, and Purgatory by Tyler Childers. These were the albums where it all started, though it’s not where it ended.

An Album of the Year is often the marker for a landmark year for an artist overall, and Charles Wesley Godwin has certainly had one of those in 2021. Getting swept up in the whole Zach Bryan phenomenon as an opener has meant that Godwin’s name recognition has spilled over into the wide population, and is no longer sequestered among dedicated, in-the-know independent country audiophiles.

And even though an Album of the Year must be something that can withstand the test of time, it also has to be illustrative of the time in which it was released. With Tyler Childers mostly dormant in 2021, and Sturgill Simpson basically retiring as a solo artist, it was up to someone to step up and seize the mantle for the country music revolution that has very much been fueled by artists from the greater Appalachian region. With How The Mighty Fall, West Virginia’s Charles Wesley Godwin does that very thing.

This decision about the Album of the Year winner doesn’t come from myself, Trigger, from on high. This was the consensus of the Saving Country Music readership at large, affirmed by comments on the site and on social media, as well as the swelling of support and attention flowing to Charles Wesley Godwin and this album.

According to the ratings from this site, the album One To Grow On by Mike and the Moonpies very well could have taken the top prize too, and most certainly this is the album that has to be considered the 2021 runner up. But again, it was the way How The Mighty Fall continued to grow in stature in the weeks after its release in early November that has helped it prevail.

It was the debut (and only) album of Charles Wesley Godwin’s band Union Sound Treaty in 2016 called Next Year that first put us on alert that this wasn’t just the frontman of your average local West Virginia bar band. Godwin had the indefinable “it.” Sometimes you just know you’re onto something, even if it takes some time for it to blossom completely. But unquestionably, Charles Wesley Godwin blossomed in 2021, and it was through the power of How The Mighty Fall.

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Stay tuned for Saving Country Music’s upcoming 2021 Essential Albums List.

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