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Judge for Danielia Cotton

New York, NY
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Portrait of Danielia Cotton
Danielia Cotton's sound is a savory dig in the early '70s, when the twin powers of rock and soul came together to form a harmonious funk that satisfied the spirit as it thrilled with slashing electric guitars. As a singer and arranger, Cotton has a refreshingly uncluttered style. Cotton brings a freshness to the soul-rock formula, not to mention a contagious fervor that is near irresistible.

Growing up in rural Hopewell, New Jersey, Danielia Cotton stood out. Not just because she was only one of about seven African-American children in her junior high school, but because of the compelling power of her shockingly big voice, which stopped people in their tracks from early on. Danielia’s natural gift—raw, searing vocal chops combined with a deep, buttery tone—draws from the two different rich traditions that she absorbed early in her youth. On the one hand, she couldn’t get enough of what her friends and neighbors were listening to: AC/DC, Zeppelin, the Stones. On the other, she was her mother’s girl: daughter of a jazz singer and member of the church gospel choir, grooving to Mavis Staples, Etta James, Billie and Ella.

The happy collision of these two traditions is her 2008 album, Rare Child, produced by Brad Jones (Jill Sobule, Over the Rhine) and co-produced by Joe Blaney (Shawn Colvin, Soul Asylum) and Danielia herself. A major hit with critics, the sheer joy and pain she evokes in these self-penned tunes instantly draws the listener in. She pulls, stretches and grips her lyrics with a strength that is starting considering this lovely young woman’s seemingly happy-go-lucky demeanor and petite frame. Appearances asides, like male counterparts Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone or crossover icon Tina Turner, Danielia not only has embraced the notion of Black Rock—she has re-defined it.

Her latest disc, Live Child, is a riveting, unvarnished document of her live set – a companion piece to Rare Child – that won “Best Live Album” in the 2009 Independent Music Awards. Cotton relishes her independence as well as her eclecticism: “Once you sell your soul, I think it’s very hard to get it back.” And in her songs one can indeed hear something rare: an unfettered artist singing out her life story. No sellout, just soul.
 
 
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