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Decemberists Turn Out (Another) Great Murder Ballad

Colin Meloy and Co. strip down to somber acoustic guitar and sweet harmonies

picture-18576-1373300776Marc Hogan // October 24, 2011

Here comes further proof that the Decemberists have regained their footing since 2009’s ungainly don’t-call-it-a-rock-opera The Hazards of Love. What the focused roots-rock of last year’s The King Is Dead lacked in high-stakes derring-do, it more than made up for with 10 sharply written, Americana-tinged tunes. The Portland, Oregon-based band’s latest EP, Long Live the King, suggests more of the same starting with its title, and opening track “E. Watson” — which premiered today over at Paste — doesn’t disappoint. With acoustic guitar, a vibrato-heavy Colin Meloy vocal, and sweet harmonies by Decemberists cohorts Laura Veirs and Annalisa Tornfelt, the stripped-down song recounts the story of turn-of-the-20th-century outlaw Edgar Watson, as immortalized in a 1990s novel trilogy by Peter Matthiessen. Between that title and the Decemberists’ propensity for murder ballads, you can probably guess where this is headed. The six-song EP hits shelves on November 1, and you can watch their recent Austin City Limits appearance here while reading about how keyboardist Jenny Conlee’s cancer is in remission here.