Cathy Ponton King

Cathy Ponton King
The Crux

Independent Release

By Tony Del Rey
October 2012

Surely Cathy Ponton King has heard the whispers of the blues purists: she’s a jack-of-all-trades, but a master at none. Just because the singer’s affinity for Memphis soul, New Orleans jazz and old-fashioned balladry outweighs her enthusiasm for the standard-issue I-IV-V blues leitmotif is no reason to hate on her. Especially when King’s latest disc, The Crux, impresses so thoroughly with its dazzling array of guitar sounds, vigorous horn breaks and King’s own high quivering vocal soprano - it’s bound to leave purists clucking their tongues.

The lush sound-scape emanates from the line-up of “trophy friends” she’s called in to provide the album with its sheen of sound. The well-sought-after rhythm section includes (at times) legendary bassist, Butch Warren, and features guitar luminaries Ronnie Earl and James Thackery. They infuse each track with a modicum of compressed energy – the kind formed by holding back rather than cutting loose. But cut loose, they do.

The quick-tempo, boogie-woogie hum of “I’m Just A Woman” has a wired feel, while the laid-back groove of “Bridges That You Burned” finds its charged brilliance in Ron Halloway’s saxophone clarion call. Even a relaxed chug-along like King’s elementary “Blues Companion,” can’t help but build to a propulsive swing as it heads to the fade.

Serving as the album’s fulcrum, however, are its ballads. The trio of gems that King bequeaths to her listeners is unabashedly ripe with feeling. “Cerulean Blues,” “Tattoo On My Heart,” and “Sweet Change To My Heart,” all bear the scars of King’s anguish, the suffering blood that flows within those who have found love, only to lose it.

Nowhere does emotion run deeper than on “Tattoo,” where King’s gorgeous leap to falsetto at the song’s refrain, “It’s four o’clock in the morning,” carries with it all the despair that one heart can stand. Who hasn’t been there?

Clearly, The Crux deserves to be applauded as much for its emotional resonance as its stellar musicianship. The effort King has put forth stands on its own merit as a living, breathing entity. The only “crux” involved in the matter is the concept of a blues album built on pure expression of feeling rather than a fusillade of fast wrist-work. And that’s something to cluck over.

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