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An Enjoyable Encore
on November 29, 2011
In May 2001, Jenny Conlee, the unbelievably talented multi-instrumentalist for The Decemberists, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although it appears the cancer is now in remission, it may be a little while before The Decemberists can head back into the studio for their follow-up to "The King is Dead," their sixth studio album which was released early this year. To keep their fans occupied, "Long Live the King" is a six track EP that features additional recordings from the sessions that produced "The King is Dead."
As is the case with many Decemberists tracks, "E. Watson," the tune that opens "Long Live the King" tells a story through song led by Colin Meloy's perfected British accent. No, Meloy is not British, but the accent has proved effective for the singing of sea shanties and folk tales over the past decade by the Portland, Oregon native. "E. Watson" tells the story of Edgar Watson, a sugar cane plantation owner in southern Florida during the early 20th century. Although the tale may not be 100 percent truth, it is a story of revenge told by those burying him face down in a grave. Following the generally upbeat nature of "The King is Dead," it's no wonder "E. Watson" never made the cut, but the acoustically driven single is reminiscent of The Decemberists' early years and will delight longtime fans.
"Foregone" follows "E. Watson" with a similar sound to much of "The King is Dead." Acoustic guitar balanced by slide guitar gives the track a country twang which is pleasant to listen to, but with very little additional instrumentation, it falls flat when compared to most of The Decemberists' material.
As "Burying Davy" brings back memories of "The Island," a highlight from their 2007 release, "The Crane Wife," it becomes clear "Long Live the King" is not meant to be thought of as a complete work of its own like their last three studio albums have been. The sessions that led to "Long Live the King" may have all been around the same time, but Meloy and company were clearly experimenting with many different ideas. The home demo version of "I 4 U & U 4 Me" leading into a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Row Jimmy" only confirms these suspicions.
"Long Live the King" is an enjoyable collection of songs for dedicated fans of The Decemberists, but anyone new to the band should direct their attention to 2009's "The Hazards of Love" before diving any further into their catalog.
Track Suggestion: "E. Watson"