It may be called The King Is Dead, but the latest Decemberists album screams "rodeo" rather than "royalty." Making quirky, country-fried use of slide guitar, banjo, and copious harmonica, the literary-minded Portland (Oregon) group tell a Western tale of homesteads and time's passing. Grab a handkerchief and some homemade cornbread to experience the nostalgia and the pattering acoustic steel guitar in "June Hymn," then cheer up with "Rise to Me" and enjoy Colin Meloy's familiar melancholy crooning. The vocals here shine brassily, particularly over the steady plucky acoustic rhythm and lonely pedal steel. Looking for that covered wagon yet? "All Arise" maintains the prairie mood, its cheesy, jerky fiddle intro redeemed by toe-tapping banjo and unadorned instrumentation. And "Rox in a Box" signifies a return to the swingy, seafaring ballad for which many know and love the band. As in "We Both Go Down Together" (from 2005's Picaresque), Meloy's vocals ebb and pine for the unknown, here supported by sharp harmonies and mournful accordion. The King Is Dead is ear-openingly different for the Decemberists, but the pretty country-rock might soothe even the hardest of cowboy hearts.