Country fans, blues fans, gospel fans, southern rock fans: stop what you’re doing and listen to this album. This is the space on the Venn Diagram where all those genres meet, where you can hear the soul roots of Americana.
First, let’s back up about 20something years and revisit this duet in Sister Act 2:
The girl singing with Lauryn Hill is Tanya Blount and she tried to make a go of it in R&B after the movie came out. Unfortunately, though her live performances were praised (because she could really blow, especially for her age), she was saddled with a lot of subpar material and her debut album is largely forgettable. Her singles were decent but you’d be hard-pressed to remember anything about them once the track was over. Case in point, “Through the Rain” which is perfectly pleasant, and wholly unremarkable:
She kept performing, but for the most part, disappeared and you only heard about her if she popped up in your city performing on a circuit or a festival.
Michael Trotter wrote songs from childhood on as a way to deal with a difficult upbringing in and out of homeless shelters around DC. He enlisted in the army at 21 as a pathway to hopefully providing for his young daughter, and after his captain was killed, he wrote a song in tribute to him. When his comrades heard it, that became his new duty — writing songs in tribute to his fallen brothers in arms whenever one was killed in the line of fire.
Michael kept pursuing music and the future duo’s path’s crossed when he and Tanya were booked for the same festival. The rest led to marriage, a kid, and The War and Treaty.
And y’all — this is the sangin’est married couple I have ever heard. Tanya is truly a gift to music because nobody who listened to her smooth R&B of the 90s would have pictured this much grit and this much rock & roll from her. She sounds like a natural successor to early Tina Turner’s vocal style on a good half of this album, but she’s also perfectly content to take a backseat to Michael who is an actual hurricane. Both of their voices feel like church, but Black men outside of the pulpit don’t really sing like Michael anymore. He sounds much closer to white southern rock artists like Chris Stapleton or Josh Krajcik or Anderson East than any Black male singers — other than preachers and worship leaders. If the Clark Sisters had a man in the group, it would be Michael Trotter, squalls and all.
So on one side you have Tina Turner/CeCe Winans, and on the other side you have Chris Stapleton/Dorinda Clark making music that bridges that gap between blues, country, Southern rock, and gospel. That gap is Soul, and they sing every note with so much of it. Tanya summed it up best herself:
“With The War and Treaty, we allow people to see two people that are not perfect. We get on stage. We sweat. We’re overweight. We yell. We get ugly, we scream! My hair comes loose. We’re vulnerable — naked — in front of people, and it’s a chain reaction. It allows them to be vulnerable too.”
Catch a blessing on today.
This is straight boogie-woogie and I live! “Healing Tide”
A good ol’ southern country blues groove: “Are You Ready To Love Me?”
An hourlong live set at The Kennedy Center because these folks are the real deal and sound exactly the same from a stage: