Review: Danielia Cotton, Rare Child
Danielia Cotton is the honest to god, turn you out, no shit, rock your world, 100% real deal. Truth. She has a voice that brings the rain, excellent pitch, a strong sense of harmony, and above average songwriting skills. She also has more balls on an off day than a decade’s worth of hairdo boys who flaunt their package, bleat in a girly falsetto, and wear makeup (you know who I’m talking about). She also rocks and kicks ass while she’s at it.
Cotton grew up in a fatherless home in a small New Jersey town. Her mother sang jazz and gospel and rose to become head of accounting at the Houghton-Mifflin Publishing Company. Without a college degree. Sounds like Danielia isn’t the only one in the Cotton family with balls. At the age of 12 Danielia joined her Mom in a gospel group and the glorious gospel tradition of passionate, powerful singing combined with finely tuned harmonies and solid vocal chops is evident in both her singing and songwriting. Throughout the album you can hear the gospel and jazz background along with some country but the primary genre she draws on is rock.
Cotton sings lead and handles most of the backup vocals on the album. She also plays acoustic guitar and wrote or cowrote the lyrics and music for all of the songs on Rare Child save one. Her musical cowriter Kareem Devlin plays electric guitar in her band and his fret work is an essential element of the group’s big rock sound.
The band is good, the songs are good, but the thing that vaults Rare Child to the top of the playlist is Cotton’s voice and singing ability. I’ve heard her compared to everyone from Billie Holiday to Janis Joplin but the influence I hear the most strongly in this album is Bonnie Raitt. Raitt has a stronger blues influence where Cotton leans more toward rock but if you’re going to be a woman who lays down raw guitar-driven rock you could hardly have a better influence than Raitt. Cotton sings with the same swagger and confidence as Raitt but, again, the difference is the voice. Raitt has a great voice; Cotton has a voice like an act of God. You turn Rare Child up and Cotton will strip the paint off your walls. She not only has power, she has control and that’s a combination that’s very hard to beat.
Not every song on Rare Child works but the ones that do like the title track, “Testify” and the outstanding opening cut “Make U Move” are so good it’s easy to get past the occasional lapse. As powerful as her voice is, the more you listen to Rare Child the more you get the feeling she hasn’t really let this beast out yet. The good news is that Rare Child is an excellent album. The better news is that Cotton doesn’t sound like she’s reached her peak yet.
Rare Child opens with the lyrics “Cause I’m a little black girl / Who’ll rock your world / So come move with me.” Which just about nails it. Truth.
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