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The Lemonheads, ‘Varshons’ (Album Review)

Head Lemonhead Evan Dando has always had a magic touch with cover songs. Whether tackling Broadway showtunes or John Prine, or Simon and Garfunkel, the laconic alt-rocker nimbly transforms songs until they sound like they could be his own. That pixie dust extends to “Varshons,’’ the Lemonheads’ first all-covers release. Inspired by mix tapes Dando received from “Varshons’’ producer Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, the track list is beyond eclectic. Some songs are expected, like the sparkling take of Gram Parsons’s ambling “I Just Can’t Take It Anymore.’’ A few explore the favorite Dando topic of time misspent, including the psychedelic freakout “Green Fuz’’ and Townes Van Zandt’s melancholic “Waiting Around to Die.’’ And then there is the truly left-field, including a bouncy run-through of G.G. Allin’s murder ditty “Layin’ Up With Linda.’’ The other theme seems to be pretty ladies – Kate Moss and Liv Tyler show up to competently provide vocals on Arling & Cameron’s synth-pop song “Dirty Robot’’ and a tender take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,’’ respectively. Oddly, neither contributes to the lovely, Neil Young-in-“Harvest’’-mode version of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.’’ No matter: That title describes the whole album.