Acid flashbacks: The Sammys 2008

Russ Tarby, Staff Writer 06/13/08More articles
While numerous newcomers received Syracuse Area Music Awards June 6, at Taste of Syracuse, the evening awarded its audience with a rich and rewarding stroll down memory lane care of its hall-of-fame inductees.

Rookie rockers The Goonies won the Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist and hip-soul group Electric Relaxation took home the Sammy for Best R&B CD. In the pop category, Leif Olsen prevailed while alternative rockers Torment the Vein and rappers Oxburg won in their respective categories.
The two People’s Choice awards also went to novices, The Action band and Funk ‘N Waffles venue.

So youth was served, but the performances by the Sammys’ five newest hall-of-fame inductees resurrected the sounds of the Sixties and Seventies.

Guitarist Dave Novak recalled his early days with the Gas Caps, the Vikings and The Sermon. “John Dancks (one of the area’s most talented bass players) taught me my third chord, an open G,” Novak said. The late Dave Pastenack and the still-vibrant John Cadley also helped Novak along the way.

”Most times I still feel 16,” he said before he and his current band, The FabCats, launched into versions of “Friends Like You” by Cadley and “How Long?” a Cross Creek tune recently recorded by The Eagles.

Singer Sandy Bigtree also entered the hall and shared memories of jazz at Soolin’s and the late concert promoter Jack Belle. The vivacious vocalist proved she’s still got it belting out George Harrison’s “Horse to Water” as her final tune.

Roosevelt Dean’s Hall of Fame Sammy is his eighth and he reminded everyone why he’s called “The Voice of Syracuse” by singing the heck out of the blues. But he also kept it real by talking about the cancer he’s been battling for seven years. The illness is so serious, Dean said, that all he can do is leave it up to the Lord. He closed his short set with a heartfelt gospel number, “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”

Guitarist Mark Hoffmann turned his set into a family affair, with daughters Eva and Anna singing backup and son Gustav playing bass. They revived the Jam Factory hit “Talk is Cheap,” and Anna shone brightly singing counterpoint to her dad’s lead on “Down in Hollywood” by Ry Cooder.

“I’ve played both Fillmores packed to the rafters and I’ve played roadhouses with three drunks at the bar,” Hoffmann reflected. “But Central New York is the best place to be from and to come home to.”

Drummer Larry Luttinger shared his hall-of-fame set with Syracuse saxophone mentor Jerry Santy and Hoffmann, who joined the CNY Blues Orchestra onstage with vocalist Gary Branch for a few Blues Brothers tunes.

As he accepted his Sammy, Luttinger reminisced about long-ago gigs at the Holiday Bowl on Erie Boulevard East with the Stompin’ Suede Greasers. He called out to former Greaser Todd Hobin: “Todd, you figure out where the hang is after the show, and we’ll talk all night.”

Despite soaring temperatures, the 2008 Sammys flowed smoothly and rocked righteously.

The awards show could only have been improved with a performance by Mark Doyle and Joe Whiting, who deservedly took top honors for Best Rock CD of 2007, for “The Truth.” And a video of the late great stage performer and radio broadcaster Armond Magnarelli would’ve been a welcome touch. Magnarelli posthumously received the Sammys’ prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other 2008 Sammy winners:
Best folk/bluegrass CD: Cliudan, “Anymore.”
Best Country CD: Branded, self-titled.
Best jazz CD: Hanna Richardson & Phil Flanigan, “Live at the Fleece.”
Best Blues CD: Los Blancos, “Just This Once.”
Best CD, Other Styles: Kh’Mi, “Away Now.”

photo by Kuan Luo

Rating: 3.0/5 (16 votes cast)

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