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November 1, 2002

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'Walk' is a special journey for Amos

By Steve Morse, Globe Staff, 11/1/2002

A "sonic novel" - that's what Tori Amos calls her new album, "Scarlet's Walk." It's a challenging, often brilliant concept record that follows a woman's travels across America. It's a chance for Amos to encounter everything from the porn industry to Native Americans, Boston intellectuals, a Southern manic-depressive, a Latin revolutionary, a Messiah figure, and a wild romantic named Crazy.

It's an entertaining, informative story framed by Amos's theatrical vocals and jazzy, pop-rock piano melodies. And there will be more to come in a secret code provided on each CD that will be updated during Amos's national tour, which includes a stop at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell on Nov. 19 with her three-piece band.

"The secret code will take you here and there during the whole tour, so the record will continue to live," says Amos. It uses a Web site that will allow fans to visit "Scarlet's Web," featuring a map of Scarlet's journey, as well as a map tracing Native American historical sites (from Hopi Nation to Wounded Knee and the Trail of Tears) and a map of Amos's new tour itself.

Amos, who is part Cherokee, got the idea for the album after listening to Americans talk about the aftermath of 9/11, which reminded her of the poignant stories that her grandfather would tell about how his mother left the Trail of Tears and fled into the Smokey Mountains. The name Scarlet not only references Scarlet O'Hara from "Gone with the Wind," but applies to how Native Americans call their spiritual path the "red road."

"I love how the word Scarlet weaves together with so many things," says Amos. "It's a thread."

The new album climaxes with the song "Scarlet's Walk," where Scarlet is "at a point where she has gone deep enough to realize that America has a shadow ... but until we see a shadow, we're not who we want to be."

One song is particularly striking: "I Can't See New York," which was written before 9/11 but is an eerie foreshadowing of it: "I can't see New York as I'm circling down through white clouds ... I can't seem to find my way out of this hunting ground."

The songs just come to her, says Amos: "All I'm trying to do is be a good secretary. ... I just take them down by dictation."

The album subtly cites a lot of parallels between how Americans felt after last year's terrorist attacks and how Native Americans felt after their land was invaded. "Being on tour at the time, I was going from state to state and I really began to see what it was stirring up in people," Amos says. "America became personified when people saw her wounded and burning. That's much more of a Native American concept, of looking at America as a being and as a soul that we need to take care of, rather than just taking a narcissistic viewpoint. I was really impressed with how people were looking into each other's eyes and really relating."

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