The War and Treaty
Apotheosis of soul
From the November, 2018 issue
A year and a half ago The War and Treaty were playing occasional gigs around Albion, and when they came to the Ark they brought along student instrumentalists from the town's high school. Then a few well-placed appearances at the conferences where folk music bookings are made spread the word about the blazing soul music harmonies of this married couple, Michael and Tanya Trotter, and now they're all over the place, looking like the next big thing. They come to the Ark for two nights, November 7 and 8, and it'll likely be the last time you can get up close to them.
Partly it's that the field was wide open for black folk music, with Taj Mahal in the last stages of his career and the sorely underrated Vinx having followed so many of his predecessors to Europe. The War and Treaty's songs are a kind of apotheosis of soul, relying mostly on tambourine for percussion rather than a big beat. Their band sometimes includes fiddle or mandolin, and like all the great soul singers they essay a country song or two. Their debut full-length album, Healing Tide, includes "Here Is Where the Loving Is At," a song featuring Emmylou Harris that American Songwriter has called "a future wedding standard in the making."
At the center of their style, though, are singing and songs that take you right back to the era of classic soul. Ike and Tina Turner have been proposed for comparison, but the Turners' driving rock beat is incidental in the songs of the War and Treaty: their real model is the Staple Singers. As with the Staples, Michael Trotter's songwriting straddles the old but still vastly productive boundary where gospel structures are applied to secular themes, love above all.
Add in a compelling backstory: Michael Trotter got his start as a songwriter while serving in Iraq, writing memorials for comrades lost on the battlefield. Both Trotters are powerhouse vocalists who had some success
in solo careers (Tanya was in Sister Act 2) and who are strong separately and stronger together. They discovered Albion by accident and decided it was a good place to raise a family.
A streak of idealism is another trait linking this duo to the Staple Singers. Their love songs point the way to a higher plane. Asked by Jerilyn Jordan of the Metro Times whether they considered keeping their personal relationship separate from their music, Michael responded, "Once you try and contain it, you start to try to hold the reins. That's frustrating to a free spirit. We feel that type of freedom heals the world and gives people hope."
The "healing tide" demands to be experienced if you haven't yet!
[Originally published in November, 2018.]
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