“Miss Charlotte’s Game”
On the heels of a wistful “Just a Guy In a Bar,” the chart-topper that kicked off their 2021, and the gospel sentiments of their second single, “When the Son Rose Up That Morning,” award-winning bluegrass sextet Sideline shows yet another dimension of its musical personality with their very first song from a member of the band.
Written by singer Zack Arnold (mandolin), “Miss Charlotte’s Game” offers a tale of jealousy and murder that pays thematic and musical homage to the essential bluegrass songbook—and to folk traditions that trace back across the centuries and oceans, too. Opening with ghostly clawhammer banjo and fiddle, the song follows the outline of classic confessional ballads, with the repentant narrator recounting, from his jail cell on the eve of execution, the murder of a faithless wife and her lover.
Arnold says “Miss Charlotte’s Game”—written with his friend, Tyler Thompson—is about heartbreak. “I originally brought it to the guys in the band with a completely different idea for the melody, but when we started working it up, it went in a completely different direction,” Arnold recalls, “and that was exactly what the song needed.”
But while the group ultimately underlined the song’s classic leaning with a mountain minor melody and refrain—not to mention old-time banjo—Sideline balances the backward look with a distinctly modern rhythmic drive, full trio harmonies, sparkling bluegrass-flavored solos from Arnold and fiddler Jamie Harper, and a moody “breakdown” that hauntingly spaces out the lines of the song’s central confession.
“‘Miss Charlotte’s Game’ is the very first band original for Sideline,” notes guitarist Skip Cherryholmes. “When Gibby [Zack Arnold] went out with us on his first trip, we sat up late talking and singing, and he played this lonesome love ballad for us. Fast-forward to a band rehearsal several months later—I was playing my clawhammer banjo and he walked in singing that song again. We put a little edge on it and everything started to fall into place: the aggressive Sideline sound seemed to just flow from it, and it became one of our favorite, new, hard-driving pieces! The harmony structure is haunting, and the blend of old-time and new drive give it a very unique flavor.”
KEY SELLING POINTS
- Opened 2021 with multi-week chart-topper "Just a Guy In a Bar," spending multiple weeks at #1 on bluegrass charts
- 2018's “Thunder Dan” earned them the top spot on Bluegrass Today’s year-end airplay chart, and the Song of the Year trophy at 2019’s IBMA Awards