A Very Rare Child Indeed

I’m known for my peculiar taste in music, for my tendency to go for the old soul or rock and roll when seeking out new music. When I can’t find something contemporary to satisfy me, I’ll go back in time, reaching for the late 60s and early 70s and clawing around until I find gems that suit me. Such investigation has worked in my favor, bringing to my attention such long-neglected artists as Alice Clark, Esther Phillips and Labi Siffre.

I don’t live in the past. It’s just … as much as I like so much of today’s music, I know full well that most of it just isn’t real. Artifice can be beautiful, but when I find something that resonates with a rare honesty, I tend to embrace it.

So when I mentioned yesterday that I might’ve just found my favorite new album for 2008, I mean that I think I’ve found another honest artist to celebrate.


Danielia Cotton has a voice that fears nothing. If she needs to crack it to bring a feeling to your attention, then it’s going to crack. She’ll wail if the song warrants. She’ll keep low when a verse warrants, then set her voice afire through the bridge and send it soaring through the chorus.

She’s not blazing any trails here-to-fore uncovered. She’s doing quite the opposite. Her influences are obvious and proudly so. What hits me first is how much of a Mother’s Finest vibe I get from every other track on her latest album, Rare Child. Mother’s Finest’s iconic Another Mother Further is thirty-one years old, but remains one of the best albums I’ve ever heard (albeit an album that few others seem to remember). So that association alone would be enough to pull me into Danielia’s corner, but then she goes on to channel so many other damned good sounds. Etta James is in there, as well as Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, The Stones, Bad Company, Stevie Ray, maybe even some latter day folks like Shelby Lynne, Nikka Costa, Jennifer Nettles (Pre-Sugarland, especially). There’s even one track that reminds me quite spookilly of The Scorpions “Still Loving You,” a metal ballad that kept me in its thrall through junior high. If you look on YouTube, you can find her doing live covers of AC/DC’s “Back In Black.”

My only complaints about the album would be that it is simply too short — these ten tracks fly by far too quickly — and that a couple of tracks could’ve used a bit less polish. A well-intentioned producer somewhere seems to have the notion that Danielia should follow the K.T. Tunstall route, but that’s far too limiting. To be honest, I’ve no idea where Danielia belongs. What radio station is going to play an artist from New Jersey who slips so easily from Texas-style blues to old Nashville country to late-seventies guitar rock?

Luckilly, NPR caught one of her concerts for safe-keeping back in May. The forty-one minute show is just about enough time to run through all of Rare Child, and she is in strong voice throughout. Give it a listen, then go pick up the album in whatever format suits you. We’ve another six months to go before the New Year, but I’ll be hard-pressed to find another offering in 2008 so rich with promise. Maybe you’ll agree.

Photo from Shore Fire Media, Photo Credit: Chia Messina

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