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CD Review: Susan SurfTone Shore 

Susan SurfTone Shore
(2011, Acme Brothers Records)

Hudson, New York, might not come to mind as being the hometown of one of the surf revival’s brightest guitarists. But think again, hodad: The Columbia County city begat Susan SurfTone (born Susan Yasinski), who graduated from Hudson High School (Class of 1972) and took lessons at the now-gone Osbourne Music store. Before learning her trade with 1980s new wave bands, she soaked up the Beatles, ’60s garage rock, and ’70s punk. In 1993 she consummated her love of instrumental surf music and started Rochester’s Susan and the SurfTones, which released several albums, toured Europe repeatedly, and placed tunes in MTV’s “Real World: Syndey” before crashing ashore in 2011.

SurfTone now makes her home a bit closer to the Pacific: in Portland, Oregon. Those expecting curl-shooting pyrotechnics à la Dick Dale may at first be thrown off by SurfTone’s cooler, more subdued sound. But, while being perhaps more idiomatically representative, her light ’n’ loungey style also recalls the influence jazzers like Johnny Smith and Charlie Christian had on the Ventures’ Bob Bogle and Don Wilson and other early surf players. Producer Steve Kravac’s (Blink 182, Less Than Jake) antiseptic approach often has the instruments sounding demo-ish, as if they’re plugged straight into the mixing board rather being played live in the room by the band. Nevertheless, cork-bobbing cuts like “Jade” and “Train” have characteristic charm, and the eerie, atmospheric slink through the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” is a must-hear.
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