I’ve always had a thing for Gidget and groovy beach-party movies: those ’60s classics in which Frankie and Annette try to make each other jealous, only to kiss and make up at the big luau. As the temperatures begin to drop, we could all use some sunny jams to remind us that summer is coming. Normally I’d just play “Misirlou” over and over, but luckily for me (and my neighbors), Susan SurfTone’s new album, Shore, is helping me get rid of those wintertime blues.
Susan SurfTone is definitely not your average bandleader. First of all, she was an FBI Special Agent in the ’80s. (Yes, she did carry a gun.) She quit the gig for life as a musician, and says, “I enjoyed that job a lot, but I had the chance to play CBGB and I asked my supervisor, who said I absolutely couldn’t do that. And the death of John Lennon had made me realize that music was really the most important thing for me.” She’s also the only woman in the United States playing lead guitar, composing new instrumental surf music, and touring. Surf guitar has traditionally been a boys’ club, so as a lady (and an out lesbian for 30 years) in the business, Susan’s a real rarity.
If you close your eyes while listening to Susan SurfTone, you can almost see Sandra Dee doing the twist with Moondoggie on the beach. But familiar doesn’t mean boring. Her bouncy track “Chance” made me want to grab a surfboard, while the blistering guitar solo on “Subduction” made me want to learn a few chords. But it’s “Compression” that has me pressing repeat. Yes, it’s a little slower than the rest, but it’s also a little sweeter. And with some triangle thrown in, the song’s got an extra twinkle to it. Go here to stream her new album, Shore.
Photo by Robbie McClaran