Review: The War And Treaty’s Emotionally Charged, Gospel-Infused Vocals Highlight ‘Lover’s Game’

The War and Treaty
Lover’s Game
(Mercury Nashville)
3 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

There aren’t many acts based out of Nashville that have made more fans and friends in the short time they have been there than Tanya and Michael Trotter Jr. The married couple, originally based in Albion, Michigan, took the somewhat unusual pseudonym of The War and Treaty and have burned up stages since performing under that name in 2015. Along the way, they have attracted the attention of Emmylou Harris, Dierks Bentley, Jason Isbell, the late John Prine, and Buddy Miller among others, all of whom have praised the couple’s talents. 

Two previous albums (2018 album produced by Miller) have tried, somewhat effectively, to capture the duo’s combination of soul, folk, blues, some country, and pop, all slathered with a subtle yet substantial helping of gospel. The couple’s emotionally charged vocals, individually and together, are the glue that combines these disparate musical elements. 

For album number three, veteran producer Dave Cobb jumps on board as the Trotters graduate to major label status. While he captures their alternately fiery and smooth vocals, the album is a bit of a missed opportunity.

Push play and the title track instantly gets the flames blazing as they rock out like Ike and Tina Turner fronting the Rolling Stones. It’s an exhilarating, propulsive start that captures the heart of the duo’s Delaney & Bonnie infused, Southern-styled bluesy explosion. But it’s also a bit of an anomaly.  

The sound then downshifts dramatically for the soft, soulful, churchy piano ballad “Blank Page,” a lovely, moving tune but a sharp departure from the rave-up that came before. It gradually builds as the Trotters combine their voices resulting in a crescendo finish.

The rest of the album carves out a space in sweet, sometimes bittersweet, tunes not surprisingly dedicated to the various angles of love. Selections such as “The Best That I Have” and “That’s How Love Is Made” drift awfully close to easy listening, albeit quality easy listening. The set never returns to the fireworks the couple is capable of as exemplified by the inaugural tune. As charming as the together forever inseparable lyrics are in “Angel” and as powerful as the pair’s gospel attack gets, they just don’t gin up the excitement here as effectively in the studio as seeing them ignite audiences live.

Cobb smartly focuses his mix on the vocal performances prominently featured throughout. When Michael lets loose with I seen the devil / I seen his son / Chasing after the innocent with them blazing guns on “Ain’t No Harmin’ Me,” the effect is appropriately chilling.

However, an excess of ballads slows the album’s momentum, leaving the listener wanting more of the waters the Trotters wade in when they crank up the heat on the opening song and perhaps less of the professionally crafted yet generally laidback tunes that follow.

Photo by Catherine Powell/Getty Images for CMT

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