REVIEW: Danielia Cotton: Fighting the Good Fight with Everything She’s Got


Danielia Cotton is, for me, the epitome of the strong, self-made, independent woman ­– taking sh*t from no one, acutely-focused on getting where she’s going. This battle didn’t originate with A Different War as she’s been actively fighting for truth and spearheading her own personal movement for love and respect since she first giving notice back in ’04. And, while EPs rarely provide a representative taste of an artist’s true voice or actual potential, A Different War works because it clearly depicts her wide-ranging musical interests: a shot of soul, a touch of blues, a burst of gospel fire, a hint of hip-hop, a bushel basket of attitude and – as always – a backdrop of blinding, blistering rock.

Cotton’s ferocity and defiance are nicely offset by a disarming warmth and a tender touch. She didn’t start this fight and she’s not about to give up on it. But she’ll use everything in her toolset to have her perspective heard. An absolute fireball on-stage, she’s got the power to gently seduce you with her musical abilities before pummeling you with her message – using a take-no-prisoners, hard rock backdrop with a soulful edge.

The fact that she’s got the pipes to convincingly pull this off provides her key point-of-difference and across her 7+ release career, she’s proven to be a true original. From reinventing famous covers (from out-swaggering the Stones on “Gimme Shelter” or adding soft mauve to Prince’s “Purple Rain”), Cotton’s main focus has been to pen and arrange her own catalogue of impressive songs with messages that mean something to her, giving her voice true loft while maintaining a trajectory of complete independence. It’s cost her – but she knows what she’s doing. Absolute passion which uses rock as its exclamation mark is only the beginning as Cotton takes on many personas in her surprisingly intimate brand of music that makes her so difficult to pigeonhole.

Speaking of…dive into “Forgive Me” – its relaxed, hand-clapping, guitar-chording pace providing Cotton the opportunity to demonstrate a hint of her indomitable range as she searches for personal redemption while underlining the value of forgiveness. Her soft, almost mournful vocal (nicely ghosted by Carol Meyners) shows considerable restraint, as an unidentified guitarist adds a slightly menacing edge.

The title track tackles racism head-on, launching with a light urban rap as backup singers (Cotton/Meyners) create an otherworldly chorus as the heat is turned up. Cotton’s anguished plea turns to a heavier-handed, anthemic assault on the frustrations and inequalities of colour….and the need to listen, if not finally understand. Cotton aspires for something better, the track building in complexity as angry guitars join hip-hop artist, Mickey Factz, moving forward and back in the mix.

“Cheap High” erupts from its industrial dirge as yet another anthem, climbing to great heights as Cotton unloads her cautionary tale of poverty and the evils of greed – complete with the bed of lies from which it springs. Cotton hits some haunting high notes here without relinquishing any control as the song is driven forward by Church Boys Ben Barber and Emmanuel Rosillo’s ringing guitars, together with fat percussion from John Lopez and Seth Nicholson’s hard-pulsing bass.

Like so much fairy tale, the gentle backdrop of “Better Off Without You” sees Cotton unleashing her upper register – slightly misleading, as she always packs so much vocal punch – and you know it’s coming. A comfortably-paced soft rocker, Cotton’s siren call illuminates the fragility of love gone wrong with the heart of a rebel, as it moves from anguish to empowerment. She’s never sounded better as she copes with betrayal and loss and, in her hands, you feel every bit of the pain through to resolution while the guitars of Butler, Jack Petruzzelli and Kareem Devlin lend added punch, if not a razor-sharp edge.

“If You Don’t Want Me” is the EP’s drop-dead barn-burner. Despite Steven Kaufman’s delicate piano intro, Cotton rides atop a seething underbelly of guitars, projecting the fears of rejection skyward, delivered with so much gospel fervour, as guitarist Rosillo adds solo runs which cut deeply, drawing their share of blood.

“She Too” is a return to Cotton’s more typical hardcore rock grind – recalling Living Colour in its prime. Matt Beck’s guitar and Greg Gonzales’ incessant drum beat serving as its spine as Cotton defines the intensity of a woman’s passion and ass-kicking ability in the face of forced inequality. Cotton leaves no doubt she’s never left us behind – and she’s still not pulling punches.

Know that these 6 songs are far from flavor-of-the-month – Cotton’s been championing these themes from the beginning and the subject matter is as deeply personal as is the degree to which she commits to each performance. From the heart, with no political goal beyond instilling hope for change. She’s lived through it all, bringing an honest perspective to everything she sings about in the hopes of making life better.

Leave a Reply!