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Andrea Magee and Ben Jones of Beat Root Revival at the Belly Up Tavern earlier this month. Photo courtesy Westin Ray
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Surf Dog Records bringing the swell sounds

Skip Frye is not a professional musician; he is, as most of you know, a legendary surfer and surfboard shaper. Still, his love of music, especially the blues, has been the backdrop for his soulful wave sliding for over six decades. He, like most other surfers — some of whom are full-time surfers and part-time musicians like Tom Curren, Rob Machado, Peter King, Lance Carson, and Kemp Aaberg — understands the importance of moving in harmony with each wave’s unique beat.

Encinitas surfer/musician Dave Kaplan understands this connection so well that he created a music label based upon it. Located directly across the street from Hansen’s and just behind Java Hut is a tidy little compound where much of the soundtrack of lives are managed and distributed. Known as Surf Dog Records, a crew of five is responsible for albums from blues maestro Eric Clapton; rockabilly kings The Stray Cats and one of the labels newest acts, Beat Root Revival.

Surf Dog stands, intentionally, within striking distance of North County’s best surf, and the good folks there live up to their ravenous handle by taking every opportunity to ride waves there. While some might consider this an unnecessary extravagance, they believe it is essential in keeping them close to the source of their inspiration while remaining fresh for the long, tedious hours needed to produce, manage and market some of the world’s top musical acts.

Coming from England and Ireland, the aforementioned duo Beat Root Revival don’t surf. Not yet, anyway. Still, their music has the feel of an endless ocean wave and could easily help drive a good surf movie. I had the pleasure of seeing Beat Root live twice in August and found myself drifting on imaginary waves at the first chords of songs like “Freedom Wind.” I will make no secret of my bias here, and confess that this is my favorite new musical group. I have nearly worn out their latest offering, simply titled “UP.”

The voice of Andrea Magee, along with a small handheld drum called a Bodhrán perfectly accompanies the sound of an acoustic guitar played by Ben Jones while filling the Belly Up Tavern with the vibrations of joy, heartbreak, love, and a new west swell, all with fullness equal to that of a big band.       

While I can’t get enough of their CDs, seeing them live enhances the experience with a charisma Elvis would be jealous of.

During our first meeting, I offered to take Ben surfing next time he was in town. He politely agreed, perhaps not realizing that once he rides a wave he will be hooked, enlightened to the above Skip Frye quote and the wonderful truth discovered long ago — that waves sing to us in ways that nothing else does, and that those musical notes can take us on an endless quest to record the emotions of moving water. From Dick Dale, who basically invented surf music and played on one of Surf Dog’s MOM (Music for Mother Ocean) albums, to the surfers comprising the North County-based band Switchfoot, the beat runs deep. But for surf music performed by non-surfers, you won’t do better than Beat Root Revival. I suggest you ride along with them.

To learn more about Surf Dog Records and Beat Root Revival, visit:

Top: Andrea Magee and Ben Jones of Beat Root Revival at the Belly Up Tavern earlier this month. Photo courtesy Westin Ray