REVIEW: The Crux

JUNE 2012

FAIRFAX VA based singer and guitarist Cathy Ponton King has been flying beneath the radar for well over
two decades despite a heavy work schedule (a longtime fixture at Madams Organ and now Flanangans
Harp & Fiddle in Bethesda, Md). Perhaps in the past this lack of public perception could be blamed upon a
paucity of significant recorded output -- her first CD, LOVIN YOU RIGHT came but in 1993, her
"message in a bottle", which actually proved durable and had a long shelf life. But now there should
be no more excuses for her lack of renown in the blues community after having released the acclaimed
UNDERTOW in 2007 and the brand new THE CRUX, the latter especially, which should go a long way to
rectify this recognition issue. Maybe she's not quite yet a household name locally but King has absolutely
no problem being the featured artist on the airwaves in far off Australia or Argentina and furthermore,
doesn't have to twist arms to engage blues legends such as (in this case) guitarists Ronnie Earl and Jimmy
Thackery, sax stalwart Ron Holloway, and ex-Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk bassist Butch Warren, all who
generously contributed their time to see this project through to its fruition. And yet another feather in Ms.
King's cap is her ability to both attract and maintain a great supporting cast of musicians, including erstwhile
Danny Gatton and Big Joe Maher bassist, John Previti ,drummer of five years, Antoine Sanfuentes (whose day
job is NBC news DC bureau Chief) and the virtuoso pianist Bill Starks, a treasured member of King's group for
over 20 years.

At least two of the reasons that King's catalogue of albums is relatively limited for her long time spent immersed in
the blues are both her insistence on perfection in the studio and that the selections be original compositions (with
extremely few covers). Moreover, what she writes is memorable, derived from intensely personal but universal
experiences which translate into confessional feeling ballads. "Naturally, I'm inspired to write from what life
lays before me but also the tiniest phrase may set me off to write" she said in an interview. And while
well versed in the blues (having been inspired by and weaned on the music of Muddy Waters, Albert King,
and Willie Dixon), she proved again in THE CRUX that you don't have to play standard 12 bar blues to be
considered a blues singer (although she's very capable of executing some of the authentic gut bucket variety if
the occasion demands).

When I asked Ms. King why she chose the title, THE CRUX, for this undertaking, she mentioned that
this CD represented the word in all its definitions, including, "an essential or deciding point" or
"crossroads", whereby she could thereafter take the positive course or she could try to take bull by the
horns, so the speak, to surmount a "difficult problem" at that juncture of her life. And amazingly enough,
THE CRUX, for the most part is indeed a concept album (remember them?) ---unified by the idea of
shouldering on, or rising above, a bleak or negative situation that someone of her mature perspective
is bound to encounter just by enduring long enough on this earth.

And the key words throughout this endeavor are "loss" or "change", be it dealing with or overcoming
the death of someone , personal (possibly unspecified career) setbacks, or a relationship
turned sour. For example, in the achingly heartfelt, "Tattoo on My Heart", King ambiguously mourns
the passing perhaps of a close friend (the song is dedicated to late jazz chanteuse and mentor,
Clea Bradford), or of a lover --gone but not forgotten (the name metaphorically etched).

In "Cerulean Blues", King wishes to divest herself of her many cares and woes and throw them
in the deep blue sea and start anew. In the rollicking "Blues Companion", King wants to begin afresh
with a new love and is ready to go wherever he(or the road) takes her.

And in the zydeco infused (courtesy of the accordian work of Tom Corradino) "I Want You to Be Happy",
King acknowledges that life is too short for sorrow and she must find a way to stay upbeat and strive with all her might
to let the good times roll.

Three of the four songs which conclude the CD, the deep bluesy "Sweet Change to My Heart", the funky
"Bridges that You Burned", and the melancholy "I'm Suffering", are thematically joined by the notion
that whatever untoward had transpired before, a new love would be able to both heal and be one's

And this "new love" might take the form of the joys of a new found tranquil , bucolic existence versus
the petty annoyances of the grimy, noisy city life left behind in the breezy, jazzy,
"Little House in the Country".

So, THE CRUX, is about all but coping. As King, with longing and anticipation in her heart, expresses
in "Sweet Change to My Heart", she's sailing and moving on to distant happier shores.

And somewhere beyond that sea, better days, she swears, will be coming.

It's a message of hope.

And in these troubled times, it's something we sure can use a little more of.

--Larry Benicewicz
Baltimore Blues Newsletter, June 2012

Chesapeake All Music Guide
- May 2008
Artist: Cathy Ponton King / Title: UNDERTOW / LABEL: LONG GONE

Undertow is a showcase for Cathy Ponton King's talent and versatility as a singer/songwriter. Taking credit for eight of the 12 tunes on the album, she offers up a varied selection of hard driving rock, easy listening adult contemporary and a little jazz, all carried out with equal aplomb. One moment she's rocking as hard as she can, as she does on the rousing Little Bridge," and "Champagne Days are Over," a couple of horn-driven rockers, and the next she's in adult contemporary mode with "Can't Let You Walk Away" and "Let Me Be the One…"

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Blues Arts Studio - Review of "Undertow"
Artist: Cathy Ponton King / Title: UNDERTOW / LABEL: LONG GONE

It's hard enough to create a new album even when you've got all the time in the world. For Vienna, VA-based singer/guitarist Cathy Ponton King, it's been particularly a struggle, actually a labor of love five years in the making wherein she's had to make time nearly each night for this endeavor while juggling the roles of working mother and career woman-not to mention frequent entertainer. "It was like giving birth," she says. But knowing Cathy, it's always been a matter of quality rather than quantity.

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Blues Revue Magazine - April/May 2008
Cathy Ponton King / Undertow / Long Gone Records

Cathy Ponton King's 1992 debut, Lovin' You Right, was a stylish, stirring effort replete with excellent tracks like "Sweet, Sad and Lonely" with fine guitar work by Jimmy Thackery, the disc successfully announced Ponton King as a talent to watch… Her second disc finally has arrived, 15 years later, in the form of the sharp, moving Undertow. Despite her long absence from the studio, Ponton King hasn't been idle.

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Washington Post Review of “Undertow”
CATHY PONTON KING “Undertow” Long Gone - Friday, January 25, 2008

Horns riffing, piano pumping, organ grinding - Cathy Ponton King's latest collection of original songs opens with the gospel-fueled shouter "Little Bridge." Its brassy jubilance stands out, thanks to several Washington-based musicians, but its spiritual tone foreshadows many of the songs to come, including the piano ballad "Let Me Be the One" and the soul groove "Comfort and Blessings."

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Bluesville Magazine
Translation of a Dutch review from Bluesville, an online Americana blues music magazine

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