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World Music CD Reviews North American

Ben Bowen King

By PAUL-EMILE COMEAU
Published April 27, 2007

Sidewalk Saints: Roots Gospel Guitar
Talking Taco

Although there are no references to the name change in the accompanying press material or on the label’s web site, it’s obvious that this is actually Ben Tavera King with a new middle name. With his latest album King has also deviated from the Native American, Hispanic, and New Age styles for which he’s known. Sidewalk Saints refers to a long lost style of street music, one that consisted of performers playing gospel tunes on the National Steel guitar while accompanied by spoons, a suitcase, or a tambourine. King’s playing is complemented on five tracks by “Baptist moans,” which add a unique passion to the instrumental performances. Although King is a very deft guitarist, he obviously irons out the rough edges and also takes some liberties with the melodies. His sound is unique, but “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the leadoff track, doesn’t sound all that distinct from “Amazing Grace,” the closing one.