Danielia Cotton has not had it easy.
But lucky for us, she channels her pain and suffering into kick-ass musical creations we can all enjoy.
Case in point, her new album, The Real Book, brought to you here exclusively in its entirety.
The album, which features guest appearances by Rachael Yamagata, Amy Helm (daughter of Levon Helm) and the Broadway Inspirational Voices choir, features 12 covers, including material by Citizen Cope, Bruno Mars and the Rolling Stones, that Danielia recorded as a coping mechanism to help her get though a rough patch in life — a diagnosis of thyroid cancer and a difficult divorce.
“My life was in a state of turmoil,” she says, “so I gravitated toward songs I knew would help me cope with the challenges I was experiencing.”
Cotton somehow manages to make each of these diverse songs her own. From the rumbling, rollicking, smokey “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” to the driving, guitar-laden “Gorilla” and the soulful choral rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” she delivers each of these selections with a grit that evinces her emotional involvement in each one.
Cotton shares, “I have wanted to do a covers album for quite a while. The producer, Kevin Salem, and I handpicked each and every song. I truly hope people will embrace our versions of some great classics.”
Cotton prowess as a well-rounded musician is clear here. As is her taste in excellent music; she has the potential to breathe some classics new life for a next-generation listener. And while she’s a respectable guitarist, it’s her flexibility as a vocalist that shines here. Smokey, ballsy, sultry ... she can deliver it all.
Overall, Cotton’s The Real Book is just a great listen for that chilly day with a whiskey-tinged cup of strong coffee. She’ll warm you right up.
Produced by Kevin Salem (Mercury Rev, Bad Brains, Lenka, Lisa Loeb), the album also features drummer John Clancy, keyboardist Rob Clores, bassist Winston Roye and guitarists Jack Petruzelli and Matt Beck.
The daughter of a jazz singer, Cotton learned how to sing and harmonize as part of her mother and aunts' group, Brooks Ensemble Plus. Her mother's influence helped her gain an appreciation for soul and gospel music, especially Mavis Staples, Etta James, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
It was Cotton's friends and brother that exposed her to her other major influence -- the rock music of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. Shortly after entering junior high school, Cotton received her first guitar from her mother and began writing songs locked away in her room for hours at a time, an experience that she says "saved" her.
'The Real Book Tracklist:
01. Eurythmics - "Sweet Dreams" (feat. Rachael Yamagata)
02. Bruno Mars - "Gorilla"
03. The Rolling Stones - "Gimme Shelter" (feat. Amy Helm)
04. Stevie Wonder - "They Won't Go When I Go"
05. Radiohead - "The Daily Mail" (feat. Tracy Bonham)
06. Bill Withers - "Hope She'll Be Happier"
07. The Staple Singers - "Respect Yourself" (feat. Tracy Bonham)
08. Blind Faith - "Can't Find My Way Home"
09. Abbey Lincoln - "Throw It Away"
10. Citizen Cope - "Sideways"
11. Simon & Garfunkel - "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
12. The Zombies - "This Will Be Our Year" (feat. Amy Helm)
More at danieliacotton.com.