The War and Treaty’s debut album, Healing Tide, produced by Buddy Miller, beams with joyous gospel, R&B and crunching rock riffs juxtaposed with sensitive and detailed observations of small-town life. Led by married couple Michael and Tanya Trotter, their passionate live performances have made them a breakout act and critic’s favorite in 2018.
The song “Little New Bern,” performed here, holds special significance for the two. The lyrics recount Tanya’s childhood memories of visiting her grandparent’s farm in New Bern, North Carolina. “My grandfather brought us down there every summer to have time with the family,” she tells American Songwriter. “He and my grandmother were married for 73 years. I had the best time, with all fifty of my cousins, even though we quickly realized we were just free labor for the farm. My aunts and uncles all lived in doublewide trailers they built from scratch. We had lots of animals, a hog pen and a farm. We were real country. Every time I sing this song it puts me back as a little girl, barefoot and running around, enjoying my cousins and the love of my grandparents.”
“It’s a song about my wife’s family,” Michael adds. “As an outsider to the town, Tanya was telling me these stories while I was staying with her down there. I remember having a dream about this house we were sleeping in and then created my own story, with her grandmother cooking in the kitchen. And she had an aunt named Sis, whose specialty was cooking greens. Her grandfather had different jobs. He was a gravedigger and a sharecropper. I just wanted to make sure that all those elements were there and you didn’t have to figure anything out. I didn’t want to be abstract with the lyrics. I wanted to be right there in your face. So when people hear the song they can think of their own upbringing and their own loved ones who may not be with them anymore. But they can recall the best moments they’ve had in their lives. I call it “Little New Bern” because it’s a small community with a major, massive heart.”