“Ghost Of A Small Town is a step forward for S.A.M. with its great sequence, natural and clear sound and a great balance of mature songs and rocking arrangements on 13 tracks. Fans of Little Feat, Los Lobos, Beat Farmers, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Flying Burrito Brothers and Arc Angels will enjoy the album very much! Chris Beall’s and Phil Hurley’s contributions are dominated by fat guitars, beautifully nostalgic 70s vocal harmonies and hooks. Right out of the gate, Beall’s “A Year Of Decembers” is a competent rocker, a little later there’s the power ballad “Suburban Avenue” and “Fallin’ Down” with strong echoes of the Band Of Heathens’ country rock sound. Hurley shines on the Eagle-esque “Movin’ On” and the restrained folk-pop/rock of “Final Line”. “You, Love & Me” – a co-write with Shurman’s Aaron Beavers -is an upbeat country rock song with gliding guitars, beautiful harmonies and a killer hook – made for riding down the highway! Bassist Lonnie Trevino Jr. provides the groove- and rhythm-oriented numbers. Not unlike The Resentments’ Bruce Hughes, Trevino brings some funk, driving bass riffs and catchy lead vocals to “I’ll Be Coming Home” and “Lookin’ For A Lover” with its JJ Grey & Mofro-related Southern groove. His “She’s So Far Away” is clearly one of the album’s hottest rock numbers and would fit right into the Wood Brothers’ catalogue. While Trevino is a remarkable shouter, Phil Bass play great polyrhythmic drums and Hurley & Beall duel on electric blues rock guitars.
Singing drummer Phil Bass delivers some black & swampy elements. “(Lyin’ On The Bottom) Mississippi River” is drenched in blues and Southern soul. He also sings on the band-composed “Hold On”, a jam-and-groove-oriented number that can go up to ten or 15 minutes long on stage, and on the album’s sole cover, the traditional gospel blues “Jesus (Make Up My Dying Bed)” which was performed in the early 19th century by Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton and Josh White before Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and others reinterpreted it later. S.A.M. are giving it a 7-minute version with delicate, meandering guitars (including slide & lap steel) and a call & response vocal jam.
This is great southern Americana, only followed by the album’s title track. “Ghost Of A Small Town” is a 68-seconds short instrumental that ends this big album.”