Album Review: The War and Treaty – Healing Tide

Recently there has been much discussion about the definition of ‘Americana’ music and how the genre needs to be more inclusive of diverse voices beyond white male altcountry singers. Husband and wife duo The War & Treaty are therefore exactly what the Americana genre needs right now – combining gospel, soul, country, folk and blues to create a rootsy sound which references music history but makes it sound fresh again for the modern listener. Debut album Healing Tide is full of astonishing songs that speak to the heart of humanity, suggesting that a better, happier, more loving world is possible.

Tanya Blount-Trotter had an interesting career before pairing up in life, love and music with Michael Trotter Jr, a war veteran who discovered his songwriting talent while on duty in Iraq. Tanya acted in Sister Act 2, singing with Lauryn Hill on the soundtrack and subsequently releasing a solo album of smooth nineties soul. Despite gaining a minor hit with ‘Through the Rain’ and signing with Bad Boy Records, things never worked out for her after that in the mainstream music industry. She kept singing though and in 2010 met Michael at a festival. Soon they began working together and fell in love. Even then things have not been plain sailing for the duo, who have had to grind out opportunities in a tough industry where dead ends and lack of security are a reality. They released one album under their surnames, which showcased their vocal abilities and potential, but they were obviously still searching for their definitive sound. To set themselves apart and find their audience they have carefully created a modern-vintage musical and aesthetic style, which showcases their combined talents in spectacular fashion.

Healing Tide is produced by veteran Buddy Miller who wanted to work with the duo as soon as he heard them. Within moments of this album starting you understand exactly why. ‘Love Like There’s No Tomorrow’ sounds like an old blues classic – a euphoric, raw expression of love. As they sing to the rafters their love overflows from the speakers until even cynics like myself start to believe.

Title track and single Healing Tide is an utter smash, throwing its arms around the listener and squeezing them with its sheer force of life. You want to dance, clap, stomp along because you know you’ll feel better afterwards. The whole album is a invitation to healing, an opportunity to let their two voices work their magic on you.

Tanya takes the lead vocal on Are You Ready To Love Me?, showing her ability not just to sing a song but to own it. It’s crazy to think a world class vocalist like this has been struggling without a record deal. Musically this number has a little of the funk of some of those Daptone soul revivalist records, and this band should appeal to that audience as well as the traditional Americana fans.

While most of the album has both singers working at the same time, Hearts lets each take a turn at the microphone before they join together to harmonise beautifully. I’m not ashamed to say I cried when I first heard this one (check out the live version from their Paste magazine session).

There isn’t too much time for tears though, as most of this album is just straight up fun to listen to, like Jeep Cherokee Laredo which is a bluesy number about someone nosying in on a couple’s, ahem, private business. All I Wanna Do is another cracker which just lets them let both rip the microphone to shreds.

What is really intriguing about the album is how good the country and folk influenced songs sound, so credit must also go to the band as well as Miller’s production. One and The Same is a slow burner about the complex divides in society – differences shouldn’t matter when we are all the same inside. Michael sings solo on If It’s In Your Heart with real guts, pouring out his pain. The echoing sound of steel guitar brings the sorrow and sweetness to the surface. It’s Not Over Yet is a tear-drenched country heartbreaker reminding us that if we share our joy and grief together we can dilute our troubles.

And there is another special moment on the album, courtesy of guest vocalist Emmylou Harris. Here is Where The Loving is At creates a country soul sound so spectacular that it’s hard to understand why more artists don’t combine styles like this. Emmy fell in love with the band after Buddy introduced her to them and if you get to this point in the album and you don’t feel the same then please check yourself for a pulse.

Michael may have written all these songs himself but he has gifted his wife music that allows her to shine equally as bright. The War and Treaty is a partnership in every sense of the word. What this album advocates for is simple peace, love and understanding. So if your spirit is downhearted, if you’re looking for sweet harmony then try listening to Healing Tide. It might just save your soul.

BUY/LISTEN: (UK vinyl release August 24th)

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