Even as the Lemonheads leapt from Sabbath sludge to jangly pop, alt-rocker Evan Dando always took the time to share his love of country, whether paying tribute to Gram Parsons ("Brass Buttons") or writing the world's first pro-homo truck-driving tune ("Big Gay Heart"). For Varshons, a covers album produced by—get this—Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes, Dando drops his Dinosaur Jr. influences for a solid album that, if not for the eclectic selections, could easily be filed next to Loretta Lynn.
Dando has always excelled at reinvigorating mainstream pop ("Luka," "Mrs. Robinson"), but nothing quite prepares listeners for his acoustic take on "Beautiful"—yes, the Christina Aguilera hit—which shimmers at the edges with desert-sun feedback, as if a lost Led Zeppelin III ballad had been unearthed in Palm Springs. Unbelievably, Dando does Townes Van Zandt ("Waiting Around to Die") better than the late songwriter's disciple, Steve Earle, giving the song a hazy, horse-ride-at-dawn touch.
On the more obscure side, there's a serious electronic curveball thrown when perpetual nymph Kate Moss robotically delivers Dutch duo Arling and Cameron's "Dirty Robot." But the slide guitar returns in snuff guru GG Allin's murder narrative "Layin' Up With Linda," which may cause you to scratch your head at Dando's silk-purse-making skills.
If you enjoyed Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand or Cat Power's covers, the Lemonheads' Varshons will dazzle and delight.