“I felt like it was sort of funny to wait 10 years and do another cover album, like I’m the biggest slacker of all time,” he said.
Decades removed from his cover-boy era, Mr. Dando seems to consider himself a curator of the alt-rock tradition, much like Wynton Marsalis serves as an ambassador for jazz. The new album almost requires a syllabus, with Mr. Dando serving up interpretations of college-radio nuggets by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, John Prine, Bevis Frond, NRBQ, and the Eyes, the first band of the Go-Go’s’ Charlotte Caffey.
“I mean, these ’90s vibes, they can’t go on forever,” he said. “Strike while the iron is hot.”
Music is hardly the only topic that animates him. These days, Mr. Dando has a lot of time to read and think, and over breakfast, the former prep school student who managed four Fs and one D-, he said, in his one semester at Skidmore College found his thoughts dashing between the early American Calvinists, the 1960s cult known as the Lyman family, the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, the intellectual legacy of William James and the seamy underside of the ’70s soft rock scene. (“John Denver once sawed a bed in half with a chain saw!” he said.)
After breakfast, he was eager to lead me on a Vineyard tour, so we wandered a few blocks from the diner to Wesleyan Grove, a compound of colorfully painted Victorian cottages built for 19th-century Methodist revivalists.
Strolling among the gingerbread pinks and yellows, his face brightened. “You don’t even have to be on mushrooms to appreciate this place,” he said.
“But,” he added, “it is amazing on mushrooms.”