If it’s possible to express pure joy through music, “Healing Tide,” the new album by the Michigan duo The War and Treaty, is about as joyful a performance as you’re going to hear in these modern, cynical times. Over its 11 tracks, “Healing Tide” (produced by acclaimed musician and songwriter Buddy Miller), radiates spiritual joy (“Love Like There’s No Tomorrow”), physical joy (“Here Is Where the Loving Is At”), the joy of an open, giving heart (the title track), and even the joy in a low-down, desperate case of the blues (“If It’s in Your Heart”).
The songs are delivered with stunning vocal passion and power by Michael Trotter Jr. and his wife, Tanya Blount, whose voices can soar together in harmony or play off one another with a sly sensuality. Whether it’s gospel,
hard rock, soul, or country that the duo is drawing from on “Healing Tide,” the music is compelling, intense, and above all, hopeful.
“I wanted to get people thinking about the solution versus the problem,” says Trotter, who wrote the songs on “Healing Tide.” “And I wanted to put the idea in their heads that we could all be the answer. Instead of looking for just one individual to lead us, what if we all are the answer to the problem? I chose that as the message of this album.”
Trotter says his goal for “Healing Tide” was a clear one, uncluttered by doubt. “I don’t have time to think about any insecurities or hesitation,” he says. “I’m too busy trying to heal the human race. That’s always been Tanya’s and my position.”
Not a huge goal, right? Just the salvation of humanity through music.
“It’s not huge to me,” he says. “We’re singing to every person who comes in front of us. My goal is to hit them all.”
It’s an incredibly uplifting message for a band that began in a place of unspeakable darkness.
The roots of The War and Treaty begin in 2004, when Michael Trotter Jr. was serving as a soldier in Iraq. Trotter’s unit was encamped in one of Saddam Hussein’s private palaces and found an old upright piano pushed into a corner. Encouraged by a captain who had made it his personal mission that Trotter survive, the young soldier, who already loved to sing, learned to play that piano. And when his captain was killed, Trotter was moved to write his first song, which he performed at the fallen man’s memorial service.
Trotter’s performance was so powerful that he ended up spending the next three years singing not just for his unit, but for other soldiers’ memorial services. He even came in first in a military talent competition called “Military Idol,” and, after his discharge, appeared on a Hope Channel special called “My Story, My Song.”
Given the pain that Trotter has seen, it’s hard to imagine him retaining any shred of good will, but those experiences somehow bolstered his determination to see The War and Treaty succeed.
“That comes from serving, seeing way too much pain and not enough love,” Trotter says. “The thing about this is you can’t measure pain; you can’t measure hard times. You can’t judge how much pain someone is feeling. We all feel it in our lives; it’s something everyone goes through. The question is how we move past it and negotiate that kind of painful experience.”
And after his time in the service, Trotter found just the right person to help him move past the pain and into the light. Tanya Blount is a singer who can be just as moving if she’s singing in a pure country trill or in the full roar of fiery gospel, and as positive as Trotter generally is, there are time when she is the one lifting him up.
“If I was doing this with a girlfriend, or just a friend, it would be extremely difficult,” he says. “But this is my wife we’re talking about. At times I don’t feel so hot, and it takes Tanya coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, where’s that swag? Let’s do this!’ And then the thought becomes, ‘We’ve got to take these stages and give hope to the people and love on our audience.’ That’s when the magic happens.”
What: Lauren Daigle: The Behold Christmas Tour, w/ The War and Treaty
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1
Where: McAlister Auditorium, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
Info: 864-294-2000, http://www2.furman.edu/sites/McAlisterAuditorium/ConcertsEvents/Pages/default.aspx#/?i=1