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. Fans hoping for an immediate follow-up were disappointed, but 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. The Virginia-based singer and guitarist has spent the past decade and a half performing nearly every weekend in the Washington DC area and writing songs with Jeff King, her husband and producer. Her voice is supple and expansive, with an upper register than can move into a hard belt or a fluttery falsetto, depending on the mood. Like Janiva Magness, she never strains or oversings.

Some of Undertow’s instrumentation sounds dated, and the drummer occasionally rushes a bit, but despite these flaws, it’s a sincere and deeply felt effort. “Little Bridge” is a rousing Memphis stomper, while “Comfort and Blessings” captures the bottom heavy sounds of Hi Records and 1970’s soul. Ponton King’s songwriting often displays a welcome touch of idiosyncrasy, such as on “Things Turned Out That Way,” which opens with the line, “How can Something, so evil, be so beautiful?”. “Champagne Days are Over” places similarly inventive lyrics within a funky setting.

“Soft Sound” , one of the disc’s lovelier moments, is a musical attempt to find peace within chaos, tenderly and sweetly delivered. But perhaps the most powerful track is “Can’t Let you Walk Away,” a strong ballad graced by fine playing from guitarist Mike Lessin. Ponton King’s voice flows with depth and meaning, carried along by a theme — fear of separation — that will resonate with most listeners.
Cathy Ponton King is a blueswoman for the 21st Century, offsetting the challenges of a career in this struggling genre with a happy family life. With Undertow, she brings us up to date on her accomplishments and cements her reputation as an independent spirit. (David Freeland) © 2009 - 2010
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