Danielia Cotton: A 'Rare Child'

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Danielia Cotton's latest album, Rare Child, melds a wide range of influences such as rock, blues and gospel. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Demographers, beware: Danielia Cotton doesn't fit neatly into any box. She's an African American, from a nearly all-white town in New Jersey. She's a singer and songwriter who can sound like a blues balladeer on one track, and a hard-rock wailer on the next. She's influenced by gospel music, but she's also a convert to Judaism.

Cotton has mined parts of her childhood and recent adult experiences to create her new album, Rare Child. The singer joined Weekend Edition Saturday's Scott Simon, from NPR's New York City studios, to discuss her new record and her musical career.

Growing up in a family of musicians and singers, Cotton began to sense her gifts for music at the age of 12. She says she was initially attracted to rock music because she was a "little black kid in a white town and I was angry. And that music was a place I could put that aggression."

Cotton says her tastes have always been eclectic. "I didn't come back to rock until later in my life," she says. "I think I was a little more singer-songwriter, a little bit more soul in the music. And I think when I was brave enough, I went back to where I wanted to be, which was more a place that I felt at home, where I could live. When you're singing rock it's powerful, and through that emoting to the audience you get a lot out too — you're able to let go too."

Soul-Rocker Danielia Cotton in Concert

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With an equal emphasis on rock, jazz, and soul — and with roots in gospel — New York-based singer Danielia Cotton draws on a wide range of influences, from Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones to Mavis Staples and Etta James. Return to this space to hear Cotton perform at WXPN and World Cafe Live, starting at noon ET Friday.

Aiming to craft a contemporary-sounding record that still hearkens back to '70s pop and soul, Cotton just released Rare Child. It follows Small White Town, a soulful and upbeat record that inspired WXPN to name her an "Artist to Watch" in 2005.

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