The War and Treaty, “Hearts Town" (Rounder)
It says something about an act when much of their work would fit neatly onto just about any music playlist. That's certainly true of The War and Treaty, the category-defying married duo of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter.
On their second full-length album, “Hearts Town," the colossally talented pair continue their commando, no-limits journey to the top of the music world. Named last year as the Americana Music Association’s emerging act of the year, they've won critical acclaim that has only made them more confident, sure-footed and, if possible, less bound by category.
And none of the acclaim has made them any less adventurous.
Their sound starts in Southern soul and gospel, but leaving it there feels too confining. Country influences are evident as well, and the sound is rangy enough to incorporate a blazing guitar solo by Americana rocker Jason Isbell on “Beautiful," a song about the loss of Blount-Trotter's mother.
Comparisons are risky here, but you can hear the kind of label-defying versatility found in classic Staples Singers songs and the contemporary work of John Legend.
The duo's power emanates from the interchangeable lead singing of two people with glorious voices, elegant when offered up together or apart. The crescendo peaks on the closer, “Take Me In," a towering work of passionate, fearless pleading for a sense of belonging — and so, in a sense, an anthem for our times.
The album's name is derived from an affectionate nickname for the couple's fan base, a devoted and diverse community they say is built on the belief that racism can be erased and empathy encouraged in everyone — a place where “everything broken can be fixed."
That's a tall order these days, but “Hearts Town" is a pretty good place to start looking for it.
Scott Stroud, The Associated Press