Small White Town

Danielia Cotton

HipShake Music, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


So just where exactly did this come from, anyway? Though the cover photo makes her look all of 19, Danielia (da-neel-ya) Cotton has on this earth twice that long, which helps explain how she came to sing with the fire, conviction and hard-won knowledge of a Tina Turner or a Bonnie Raitt, but doesn’t come close to explaining where she’s been hiding all these years.

The life experience Cotton has under her belt is clear right away on cuts like “Found Another” a world-weary, soaring, gorgeous gospel-blues-rock thumper whose lyric and delivery have the kind of mature emotional clarity that sets a singer of any age apart.  The fact that the entire song hangs together on a single crushingly effective line -- "What part of 'my baby' do you not understand?" -- is also the sign of a master craftswoman at work.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But I'm getting ahead of myself, which is a real temptation when the music is this good.

Growing up in Hopewell, New Jersey (the "Small White Town" of the title), Cotton learned about jazz, blues and gospel music from her mother and aunts, but as one of seven African American students in her entire high school, she ended up gravitating toward her peers' favorite classic rockers, acts like AC/DC, Judas Priest and Todd Rundgren. The combination of these disparate influences, in the hands of an artist with enough raw talent to power a rocket engine, is simply explosive.

The end result is a standout album of soaring, growling, immeasurably potent tunes. Hendrix overtones are apparent on heavy cuts like "Devil In Disguise" and "JC I Try," while the driving "Fast" is soulful blues-rock, and the introspective, mid-tempo "It's Only Life" achieves lift-off on the strength of its absolutely gorgeous gospel accents.

"4 A Ride" and "Take My Heart" are a pair of superb, slow-grinding gospel-blues numbers where Cotton reaches down in the depths of her soul and wails like a master. The latter also contains the classic line couplet "Take the food from the table, take the words from my mouth / Take my man if you're able, I can do without." Another highlight, "Today," is strutting, guitar-heavy, Led Zeppelin-style hard rock with a dash of sax thrown in for spice.

Small White Town is produced and largely co-written by acclaimed songwriter/producer Kevin Salem (Giant Sand Chocolate Genius, and a trio of superb solo albums), who gives the proceedings a warm, intimate feel, like you're in the room with the band. As a measure of how compatible a collaborator he is, he wrote one cut here ("Pride") on his own and you wouldn't know the difference without reading the liner notes. Danielia chose well.

There's little doubt in my mind at this late date what my pick for the indie album of the year for 2005 is going to be. You've been warned -- don't miss it.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of HipShake Music, and is used for informational purposes only.