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," both custom-made for FM lite radio. She rocks a lot more than she doesn't, but when she does show her softer side, the results are very memorable tunes full of great melodies and soothing vocals. The obviously titled "Soft Sounds" beckons you to "come on down, listen to the soft sounds". Sounding a little like Bonnie Raitt, it's a laid back piece of adult pop music for the stressed-out set.

Of the 12 songs on Undertow, eight are CPK originals, three were written by her husband Jeff King, who also produced, and there's a snippet called "Pop Harpin'," 20 seconds of King's late father Tommy Ponton playing harmonica that segues very nicely into "Things Turned Out That Way," a scorcher of a song that gets its fire from the slide and electric guitar work of Andy Rutherford and Mike Lessin, respectively. Bending, sliding and choking their instruments simultaneously, their stringed interplay ignites with an intensity that begs to be played loud. Easily the best track on the album; it's also King's best vocal performance, and a display of her power and range.

Dark Shroud is another rocker with a bit of crunch behind it. Written by Jeff King, it also has that sound that occasionally gets CPK compared to Bonnie Raitt. Her voice has similar tonal qualities and the tune itself sounds like something Raitt would cover. The twin guitar attack of Lessin and J.R. Pluckett, combined with the pounding beat of drummer Antoine Sanfuentes, gives the song a hard-edged sound that King matches with her slightly gritty vocal performance. King, who is a very capable guitarist in her own right, only picks up her axe once on Undertow. She does some string bending on "Champagne Days are Over," a nice slice of Tower of Power-influenced funk that gets its groove from the horn section. "Since You've Gone" is a bouncy jazz number. The most stripped-down cut on the album, it features a quartet of bass, piano, drums, and trombone and swings in a cool 50s style reminiscent of Peggy Lee.

Undertow is a great-sounding album. With as many as 10 players on some cuts, it has a nice wide soundstage that fills a room with instruments. King's voice is always front and center, sounding warm and natural. King, who credits Muddy Waters as her musical influence, delivers a lot more than the blues on Undertow. A very talented singer/songwriter, she delivers an album full of accessible songs that while rooted in that genre, have a much broader appeal. It also establishes her an as artist not to be pigeonholed in one particular style, and shows her to be equally talented, and comfortable in a variety of musical roles. Definitely deserving of a place in your music collection, Undertow is a very nice mix of styles, and a disc you'll probably find yourself returning to many times over. - Michael Macey

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