Michael and Tanya Trotter share a bond much stronger than just their marriage. As the musical force The War and Treaty, the power in their relationship helps the songs on their debut album, Healing Tide, both uncover extra layers of intimacy while also boosting them to new heights.
At the center of their musical prowess are the vocals. Tanya and Michael have a spectacular range, and can carry tunes with the most minimal of accompaniment. On the opener “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow”, the hushed tune is simply the Trotters trading lines with the occasional beat of a tambourine. The track feels like an ancient spiritual, and warms up your ears for everything to come.
What follows is the title track “Healing Tide”, a passionate explosion of gospel, R&B, and soul that kicks the album into high gear. There is so much fire in the track it can’t help but leave burn marks on every song after it. It doesn’t quite reach the cathartic heights of say, Jackie Wilson‘s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”, but that it manages to come close to that perfect song is a testament to the group’s potential, as they sing with and off each other with impeccable ability. They’re smart not to throw another high energy track right after it, as there’s definitely need for a respite to catch one’s breath.
The good feelings of “Are You Ready to Love Me” move the album into a mellower groove, with countrified piano and old school spirit as Tanya sings “I can be a good woman to you day and night. Are you ready to love me baby?” The line is more an ultimatum than a plea, which stays true through the album. Whether the track is a melancholy duet like “Hearts” (where the love between Tanya and Michael truly shines, as you can feel them singing lines like “Life would be wrong if we spent time alone” to each other) or socially conscious folk like “One and the Same”, there’s always a strength to Tanya’s delivery.
Props need to be given to the musicians on the album. The stand-up bass on “Jeep Cherokee Laredo” adds a bee-bop swing to that sultry night club blues jam, while the gorgeous bending notes and organ on “If It’s In Your Heart” give the soul ballad a timeless feel.
As “Here is Where the Loving Is At” starts, the energy of the album begins to dip, and even the presence of Emmylou Harris and accompanying banjo can’t quite erase the pacing drag. Thankfully, as that song ends the drums kick up and we get “All I Wanna Do”, an electric blues rock and roller that lifts the album off again. While the album softens for the remaining two numbers, one feels eased into the ending by then.
The War and Treaty is what music should always sound like – beautiful, rapturous and invigorating. While the album is slow at moments, there’s no denying the Trotters are true students of classic R&B, soul, gospel, country, folk and rock and roll, and are skilled song crafters. Listening to the tracks, one gets the feeling that they don’t come close to capturing what must be a breathtaking live show, which I hope to see in the future.
Listen to the album below and let us know your thoughts: