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The Lemonheads | Varshons 2

Evan Dando returns after a decade with another batch of freewheeling covers.

It’s a shame about Evan Dando. Back in the ’90s, the Lemonheads frontman was one of the more interesting and individual singer-songwriters on the scene (as anyone who’s heard underground gems like My Drug Buddy, Big Gay Heart and It’s About Time already knows). Then bad decisions and bad habits got the better of him. Since then, he records sporadically and writes songs even less frequently: Varshons 2 is his second studio disc of covers in a row, arriving a full decade after its predecessor and 13 years after his last studio album of original material. Fortunately, one thing Dando hasn’t lost is his ability to transform virtually any song into his own (as anybody who’s heard their chart-topping covers of Luka, Mrs. Robinson and Into Your Arms also knows). This time out, Dando serves up another eclectic roster of tunes from here, there and everywhere — all retooled with his sleepy, warm-breeze vocals and laissez-faire garage-rock beauty. You’ve got indie-rock album cuts from Yo La Tengo, Bevis Front, Nick Cave, Paul Westerberg and NRBQ; deep cuts from troubadours like Lucinda Williams and John Prine; punk and reggae obscurities from The Eyes and GiveGoods; and even left-field eyebrow-raisers from (believe it or not) Florida Georgia Line and Eagles. Enjoyable as it is to have Dando back in action (and in fine form) after all these years, I’d still prefer a new set of tunes from the man’s own pen. Even so, I’m glad I got the chance to hear him cruise through his surprisingly faithful rendition of Take It Easy. Missing out on that would truly be a shame.

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