Let the Healing Tide of The War and Treaty and their sweet, soulful sound wash over you

There’s still time.

There’s still time before American duo The War and Treaty release their debut full-length on Aug. 10 to maybe, perhaps, change the name.

When it’s suggested that, with all that’s going on in the world today, perhaps the husband-and-wife duo of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter might want to switch the 11-track offering from Healing Tide to Healing Tsunami, the pair laugh.

It would suit. Not only because, again, we are in an age where a little healing would go a long way, a lot of healing is preferred, but also because from the opening notes of the album until the final word is sung, you’re swamped with positivity, love, kindness, generosity, beauty and human honesty.

“Thank you so much for that,” says Michael, songwriter, keys player and deep soulful yin to Tanya’s gorgeous yang in the makeup of the band. “We’re proud to be a part of it — just getting that message across.”

“We’re very excited,” she adds.

So are many, many others.

The Michigan-based act has built an incredible buzz in the industry thanks to a sound that’s part soul, country, gospel, Americana and R&B, and a live show that has blown away audiences with pure positive energy, including an apparently jaw-dropping set where they stepped in to replace Buddy Miller at the Americana Music Festival and Conference in Nashville last year.

Local audiences will get a taste of all of it when they hit town for this year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival, which includes, as a fitting weekend tone-setter, the opening Mainstage slot Thursday, July 26 at 5:30 p.m.

If you don’t ditch work early, you’re going to regret it and you certainly won’t be able to say, “I saw them when …,” when they accept what are certain to be multiple Grammys next year for Healing Tide.

Those who are familiar with The War and Treaty know that healing, as well as love and honesty, are very much common themes in their musical histories.

Tanya’s goes back a little further, with the singer being discovered at the age of 13, later going on to appear in Sister Act 2, where she appeared in one of the 1993 Whoopi Goldberg vehicle’s more (only?) memorable moments performing the song His Eye Is on the Sparrow alongside Ms. Lauryn Hill. Blount-Trotter released several albums and charting singles during the ’90s, eventually signing an ill-fated — contentious and obviously emotionally draining — contract with Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records before heading her own way, following her own path for another decade.

It was during that time, performing on a festival bill in 2010 alongside Blount, that she met the man who she’d eventually marry and team up with so successfully.

His journey there was wildly different. He admits his upbringing was far less musical, drawn to it but with no training or outlet. Fascinatingly, it wasn’t until he enlisted after 9/11 and was sent to serve in Iraq — he served two duties, was wounded during one — that he found that side of himself, when his captain, who had heard his voice and ability, encouraged him to have a seat at a piano in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, where they were stationed out of. The melodies came, his songwriting skills began.

Sadly, it was that same captain’s death that would put those skills to use, with Blount being asked to write a song to pay tribute to the officer for the rest of the unit at his memorial.

It was such an uplifting and comforting and heartfelt tune and performance that the artist was then tasked with writing and performing personal tributes for other fallen soldiers throughout the remainder of his duty.

Upon returning home music became something that he wanted to pursue, and did, eventually finding himself on that bill with Tanya, whom he describes as the “switch-flipper” when it came to songwriting.

“She was going to now take all that I was preaching about, all that I was trying to sing about and make sure that I applied it my own and make sure that I faced it in my music,” says Blount, who still deals with some of the effects of serving in a war zone.

“And that was hard and that was tough because there were some dark moments in there, some moments of pain, and if I was going to find any kind of 100 per cent absolution I was going to have to listen to the bad notes of my life.

“I also listen to the good notes in my life, too, and there it is.”

That actually provides some of the story behind not only the entirety of Healing Tide, but also one of the first singles Are You Ready to Love Me?

It relates to that difficult conversation you need to have with someone you want to share the rest of your life, the insistence of knowing the entirety of the other person, telling them that they need to let you in.

It was something that Tanya needed answered to become partners with Michael in music and love before they could continue on.

“Exactly, those were my words. Exactly: ‘You have to let me in,’ ” she says, before acknowledging the ultimatum was one that she needed and was ready for the consequences either way.

“I had done a lot of work with myself, through counselling and therapy and health development to know what I wanted and what I needed at that moment in my life after going through my own healing tide, so I was OK with whatever his response would be. It was either, ‘No, I’m not ready to love you,’ or, ‘Yes, I’m ready to love you,’ or in the middle. So I was ready for whatever response I got from it.”

The song, their marriage, six-year-old son and artistic relationship should tell you the answer she got.

So, too, should the rest of new album and its all original compositions be a pretty exceptional indicator of the bonds between the two.

In a beautiful completion of a circle, it was recorded at the aforementioned Buddy Miller’s Nashville studio with an incredible group of session musicians — many award-winning and all of them much-in-demand — over the course of five days earlier this year. It was a quick and rewarding experience, despite Blount’s admitted “studio phobia.”

“(He) made us record each song twice because he was feeling guilty, because in his words, he said, ‘I can’t believe it’s going so smooth — something needs to go wrong,’ ” says the songwriter, noting his “hate for the studio” comes with the “polishing” and “prettying up” of things.

“I don’t want things to sound perfect, I want things to sound honest. And Buddy and Tanya allowed that honesty.”

Yes, it still manages to maintain that raw energy that helped give The War and Treaty earn the live reputation they have, but it’s also a sweet, easy listen.

One of the highlights of the album is the tune Here Is Where the Loving Is At, which features a gorgeous guest turn by the legendary Emmylou Harris, a friend of Miller, whom he’d talked the duo up to — and showed her some YouTube videos of — and they met at that life-changing Americana fest.

Blount, having already written the song, asked Miller if the producer thought Harris’s voice would fit and if she would be interested. He did, she was, and she showed up on the recording day, Michael’s birthday, having just returned that morning on a flight from the U.K., with a plate of homemade brownies in hand.

“Aside from the talent and all of the accolades, Grammys, and being a legend, she’s just a beautiful human being,” says Blount-Trotter. “She is an incredible human being. She makes you want to be like her, she makes you want to be better people.”

And they both say, Harris, Miller and the entire experience have made them want to be better artists.

Hard to imagine that be possible, but, well, it’s also something they demand from one another.

“Oh, yes,” she says with a laugh. “We used to have drag-out conversations about it … I’d sing something and he’d say, ‘It doesn’t sound good.’ He’d say something else, like, ‘Maybe you should sing it like this.’ ”

“No, let me tell you what she told me,” he says, also laughing. “She said, ‘Maybe you should put some bass in your voice,’ that’s what she told me. She says, ‘Growl, do something, be a little bit more manly in the way you sing.’ I’m like, ‘Whaaat??!! Let me tell you how you need to sing.’ ”

He laughs again. “That’s The War and Treaty.”

With a whole lot of honesty, loving and healing thrown in for good measure.

(Photo courtesy David McAlester.)

The War and Treaty perform at the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Thursday, July 26 at 5:30 p.m. on the Mainstage, and Friday, July 27 at 3 p.m. as part of the Friday Blues Session on the National Stage (Stage 4). For tickets and the complete schedule please go to calgaryfolkfest.com.