In two mesmerizing and dramatic sets, the Maryland-based husband-and-wife duo of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount Trotter, known as The War and Treaty, took the Red Clay Music crowd on an emotionally charged ride with stunning songs about love, loss, grief, heartache, redemption and love. Did I mention love? That was the overall takeway from this performance.
Following in the footsteps of married duos like Johnny and June Carter Cash, Ashford and Simpson, and Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, the Trotters are obviously madly, deeply in love. And it shows in their on-stage chemistry as well as in the emotional depth and strength of their songwriting and performances. Both artists are phenomenally talented singers, with Michael’s powerful tenor-to-falsetto range and Tanya’s gorgeous soprano inducing multiple goosebump moments throughout the show.
What’s more, the couple played a show the night before in Harrisburg, PA, and had driven their 32-foot RV all night to get to Atlanta. Even more impressive is the fact that Tanya handles all the driving (and parking) duties. She is woman, hear her roar.
“Woah Darlin’” is a soulful country charmer that tells of how the couple met: “He pulled up in his big black truck / Talkin’ all fast, talkin’ all kinds of junk, and I was like, ‘Woah, Darlin!' / She was lookin all cute walking down the lane trying to be a city girl, but dressed like a dame, and I’m like, ‘Woah Darlin!'”
The night had the relaxed feeling of a house concert with light, blues-shouting gospel moments on “Hi Ho” and “Jump and Drink” from their latest release, and jaw-droppingly (literally, I was in awe) dramatic moments on “The Other Side of Green” and “Criminal,” their vocals interweaving, dipping and diving like living entities. It was pure magic.
In one of the longest intros to a song I’ve ever heard, Michael told a heart-felt story of his time as a spiritually and emotionally lost young man, joining the Army, and his eventual tour of duty in Iraq (he is a combat veteran and “wounded warrior” who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder ) and the Army captain who took him under his wing. “Dear Martha” tells of the love letters the captain wrote home to his wife, and of the tragic outcome.
Donning a trucker hat, Michael finished off the second set with a full band (Maryland's Alesia Sounds) for his side project, Trotter Michaels, knocking out a few raucous alt/country shouters that sounded like Darius Rucker on steroids.
The video below features the lovely "The Other Side of Green," a meditation on true love, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at Eddie Owen Presents at the Red Clay Music Foundry. If this doesn't speak to your heart, then you have no heart.