"I'm a little black girl who'll rock your world/So come move with me," Danielia Cotton croons on the opening line on the first track to "Rare Child," out May 20 in conjunction with Alternative Distrib

"I'm a little black girl who'll rock your world/So come move with me," Danielia Cotton croons on the opening line on the first track to "Rare Child," out May 20 in conjunction with Alternative Distribution Alliance/Adrenaline. The lyric is buttressed with blues-inflected guitars, a thick rock groove and the New Jersey native's big, gorgeous howl. It's like a radio station ID, the perfect introduction to the songwriter, identifying who she is, where she is and exactly what she's capable of doing.

Cotton grew up a "black Puerto Rican Jew" in a predominantly white suburb, listening to staples like Led Zeppelin, Sly & the Family Stone, the Rolling Stones, Prince and AC/DC. "I wasn't around a lot of kids who were of my persuasion. I didn't hear a lot of R&B, stuff like that. I was just naturally drawn to rock because it spoke to me. I was angry that I didn't look like every other kid, and rock'n'roll was a place to feel that out," she says.

How Cotton looks certainly hasn't kept her and her four-piece band from opening for rock and blues/soul acts like Bon Jovi, Robert Cray, Collective Soul, Etta James and Gregg Allman. Her last album, "Little White Town," has moved 7,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Looking to recent "black rock" forebears like Lenny Kravitz and strong women who have shook up the rock world like Janis Joplin and her own mother and aunts (who sing jazz and gospel), Cotton speaks and performs now with an unavoidable air of confidence.

"I remember when we first walked onstage for Bon Jovi [at Madison Square Garden], I saw this line of women at the front all ready for Bon Jovi. I was thinking, 'I'm not a guy, I [don't] have what they wanted.' But they let me play. There was love by the end of it," Cotton says. "And opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd, I'm seeing people holding all these little Confederate flags . . . but in the end it was so fantastic. It just reminded me that you got to pay your dues."