Song Premiere: The War and Treaty’s Gorgeous Version of “A Lesson in Leavin’”

Watch the duo perform the never-before-released track from a new Country Music Hall of Fame box set honoring Black country artists past and present

A couple holding hands

Photo: Austin Hargrave

Tanya Trotter and Michael Trotter Jr., of The War and Treaty.

For much of her career, Rhiannon Giddens has worked tirelessly to reclaim the banjo as an instrument whose origins are rooted in enslaved Africans bringing it to North America. Her work—and that of many others—has helped shine a light on the many ways Black Americans have contributed to country music throughout its history, and a new wave of artists are making their presence known. Voices like Rissi Palmer, Mickey Guyton, and Brittney Spencer are just some of the artists leading the charge, as well as superstar Beyoncé, whose latest album, Cowboy Carter (which Giddens plays on), celebrates Black country music.

This makes the May 31 release of the comprehensive box set From Where I Stand: The Black Experience in Country Music all the more needed and prescient. Produced by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the original three-album set was previously released in 1998. But the collection has now been updated and expanded with a new disc that ushers the compilation into the present day, along with new essays from Giddens and Palmer that help put the set in context.

photo: Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The box set From Where I Stand: The Black Experience in Country Music

One of the artists added to the fourth disc, entitled Reclaiming the Heritage, is The War and Treaty, aka Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter, who last year became the first Black artists to be nominated for Duo of the Year at the CMA Awards. Today, G&G is proud to premiere their version of “A Lesson in Leavin’,” a never-before-released track recorded during a live performance from the museum’s 2018 Medallion Ceremony, which formally inducts new members into the Country Music Hall of Fame each year. Their performance honored Dottie West, who took the song to No. 1 in 1980—her first solo chart-topper. The War and Treaty were still relatively unknown in 2018, and their chill-inducing version of the song received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“The War and Treaty are a critical part of the From Where I Stand story, helping bring this important history forward,” says Michael Gray, vice president of museum services for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “People in our theater were blown away by their performance and immense talent. It really meant the world to the family of Dottie West, too.”

In addition to the box set, the Country Music Hall of Fame has developed a free educational resource: From Where I Stand: The Online Experience. Beginning on May 31, visitors to the site can listen to the tracks and see all of the collection’s insightful essays, along with photographs and videos from the museum’s extensive archive and historical notes for each selection. As a culmination of these efforts, the Hall of Fame will also host a June 18 concert featuring a lineup that includes The War and Treaty, Palmer, Blanco Brown, Miko Marks, and Darius Rucker, among others. 

Watch The War and Treaty’s performance of “A Lesson in Leavin’” below, and find all the info on the collection and concert here.

Also see The War and Treaty’s Back Porch Session, recorded for Garden & Gun.