REVIEW: The Last Tycoon’s Ballad of the Bloodstained Bible

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Take a large dose of Sufjan Stevens circa Seven Swans, mix in a little Ryan Adams, and toss in just a dash of more current folk acts like Mumford and Sons, and you have “Ballad of the Bloodstained Bible”, The Last Tycoon’s newest single.

John Gladwin, currently living in Athens, Georgia, ushers in the song with a slow, melancholic banjo. From the moment the first note hits – as if the incredibly substantial title didn’t tell you enough – one can see that this song isn’t just your everyday folk song about love and loss. The tune, inspired by Southern Gothic literature, runs much deeper. By the time you reach the haunting chorus, chills run up your spine: “There’s bloodstains on the family bible…” Gladwin goes on to describe gunshots and, somberly, the fact that “sometimes love don’t get you through.”

Gladwin’s worldly lyricism and musical talent in “Ballad” express his unceasing understanding of the world and, especially, the Deep South. Just as writers like Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and Truman Capote expressed the region’s mystic, often grotesque, nature, Gladwin achieves the same ends in song with this single. At one moment, Gladwin sings darkly of “neon crosses” that “burn through the night”; the next, the song builds into a dangerous atmosphere, a man walking solely with his “hat too low”, warned that, “one wrong step and you’re gone.” The rest of the song works in much the same pattern, ultimately leading to “strange fruits hanging on the trees”, a reference to the southern practice of lynching.

After one final, echoing chorus, the band finishes with an impressive last minute of instrumentals – a folksy banjo, a characteristically southern piano, and so on. With “Ballad of the Bloodstained Bible”, the Last Tycoon successfully transports the listener from his or her cozy living room to the historical South, sinister bloodstains and all.

Kate Foster is a hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated titles: writer. Blogger. Beauty and fashion junkie. Cat devotee. Art history buff. Harry Potter nerd. Cheesy 90's television fan. Sometimes-gamer. Seasonal sculptor. Mostly she’s a music enthusiast. While her heart and soul belong to 50's and 60's crooners like Etta James, Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley, one shouldn’t be surprised to find her listening to Lady Gaga or Jay-Z. Most days, though, she’s in an indie-punk mood somewhere in between - she counts the Pixies, the White Stripes, M83, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs as a few of her favorites. And while you’ll typically see her bobbing her head calmly at concerts, occasionally she pulls out all the stops for bands like the Black Lips. She treasures her bruises like a child. After graduating from the University of Georgia with degrees in Journalism and Art History, Kate aspires to move to New York City. There, she hopes to continue to write. She also plans on pretending to understand the art at MoMA and stuffing her face with cronuts and one dollar pizza. Kate’s heroes range from Oscar de la Renta and Mindy Kaling to Ernest Hemingway and Rupert Giles. She practically inhales iced coffee on a daily basis. Her favorite color is yellow, and like Buddy the Elf, she considers candy a major food group. She has dreams almost every night involving the coolest architecture and interior design, and has no idea what it means. Seriously, what does that mean?!

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