Michael and Tanya Trotter are The War and Treaty, a celebrated Americana duo that has received praise and admiration from greats including Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, and John Prine. The Trotters’ climb to notoriety was powerful and unlikely. It involved two gifted singers whose gifts were challenged by hardship and combat. They met and married, consoling and inspiring each other at every turn, with love as a given, a directive, and an imperative.
Peter on Episode 19: The War and Treaty
Each year, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is host to the Medallion Ceremony, in which new members of country’s Hall of Fame are formally inducted.
We at the Museum get to produce the show, and producing the show involves deciding what songs should be performed and what artists should perform those songs. The performances must be moving and brilliant, and must help assure that the incoming Hall of Fame members experience the greatest evening of their professional lives. So . . . no pressure. Lately, we have called on folks including Garth Brooks, Kris Kristofferson, and Dolly Parton to sing on this evening. You likely have not seen these performances: We don’t televise the show, or sell tickets, or make a big public deal out of it. The Medallion Ceremony is more a family reunion than a hullabaloo. It’s among the music business’s last pure things.
In 2018, Dottie West was elected as a member of the Hall of Fame, and it was a natural to ask her great friend (and Opry member . . . and SiriusXM host . . . and actress . . . and general delight) Jeannie Seely to sing Dottie’s early hit “Here Comes My Baby.” And it was natural to ask Larry Gatlin and Steve Wariner, both of whom credit West with helping them to their career starts, perform West’s “Country Sunshine.”
And so then we had to decide who would perform West’s 1980 chart-topper “Lesson In Leavin’.” And that was natural, too: We called The War and Treaty — Michael and Tanya Trotter — and they blew the roof off the CMA Theater in front of an audience to whom they were completely unfamiliar.
“The performance rocked so hard the usually reverent audience actually stood up to clap along mid-song,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Hunter Kelly.
Dottie’s family was thrilled, Michael and Tanya went backstage to hug and shed happy tears, and they were quickly embraced by country superstar Dierks Bentley.
“I just wanted to meet you,” Bentley said. “I’ve got to go onstage in a few minutes and follow Garth Brooks, and now I’m just relieved that I don’t have to follow you.”
Such is the powerful, delightful, and surprising nature of The War and Treaty. Their story, detailed on this episode of Voices in the Hall, involves much in the way of heartache and harrowing circumstances. But they use all that as fuel for joy. How to do that? Take a listen.
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