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November 3, 2002

Added November 19, 2002

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Thanks to Tanya for sending this to the Dent.

A walk in the country
Tori Amos sets out to explore the bruised soul of America

TORONTO -- Tori Amos is consumed with other people's stories. Volumes of intimate tales are stored inside her head.

The singer-songwriter, who startled music audiences with her 1992 debut by casting the sordid tale of her real-life rape to the soothing sounds of a Bosendorf piano, collected the stories while touring in a post-Sept. 11 America.

After shows, fans waited by stage doors to tell her deeply personal narratives about loved ones. Others sent letters recounting anecdotes and memories "that you don't say when tomorrow's coming," Amos, 39, recalled during a recent stopover in Toronto.

"It was a time in America where the masks were down, the makeup was off, the resumes were blown away, forgotten somewhere, not relevant because people didn't know what tomorrow, if it came, what it would bring."

Amos, curled on a couch in a posh downtown hotel room, says their stories were spawned from a spiritual source rudely awakened by the terrorist attacks.

"America itself came back to the round table with all the other countries and realized that it was part of the world instead of this isolated bubble," she said, gesticulating wildly.

"She's calling a lot of people right now and she's getting through," Amos added, personifying her home country.

Her response was to walk in another's shoes.

Scarlet's Walk, the singer's latest album, is a sonic novel that takes listeners through an introspective road trip across the United States in the aftershock of the attacks.

"(The record) is where I was at the time and where I've been through the last year."

Like many Americans, last year's tragedy shook Amos. She was in New York City that fateful morning, away from her two-year-old daughter.

The event caused the singer to pause and reflect on her life, especially her new role as a mother. A few months later she lost a close friend, famed makeup artist Kevin Aucoin.

"From a national world event to a personal event to just maybe as a writer realizing that America is at a crossroads on every level, whether it knows it or not," she said.

The concept for the album was inspired by aboriginal stories sung by Amos's mother about her Cherokee ancestry. Scarlet's Walk probes westward expansion, porn culture and America's concept of democracy through the eyes of a woman trying to find herself.

"Scarlet's my character in this. I get to hide behind her, I guess," Amos said. A scrapbook of semi-abstract photographs of herself taken while on the road sits on the coffee table in front of her. Many of the photos accompany the album.

"She's busy in this ... but there's a place of reality where she begins to see within her travels that her fantasy of what a good day was, or a strong relationship was, is changing.

"There is an impact that this has on her, it does define certain parts of her. It's written on her body, it's a body map."

While the album is rich with symbolism, Scarlet's trip can be actualized with any Perley's road map of the United States.

Travelling coast to coast, some 4,800 km, the album records Scarlet's many stirring, romanticized encounters: the Mississippi River site of a massacre of Apache people; Austin, Texas, where a Latino revolutionary is fighting U.S. intervention in Central America; and New York City where a woman tries to cope with a plane crash.

"The soul of America and the native Americans made it very clear to me while I was on the road that the time has come (for change), she's tired of being Miss-represented instead of Miss America."

Ever since her 1992 debut, Amos has been a very confessional and political songwriter, casting her personal tragedies such as being raped and a 1996 miscarriage to the sounds of her sharp yet erotic piano melodies.

It comes as little surprise that she would turn her feelings of despair after Sept. 11 into prose. Scarlet's Walk, perhaps her most emotionally moving album to date, is a far cry from last year's Strange Little Girls, where Amos reinterpreted a dozen songs written by men and gave them a female spin.

Despite unfolding in story format, the album need not be listened to in any particular order.

"The work hopefully works on a few different levels. That's how she (Mother Earth) presented it to me at a certain point," Amos says.

"But once in your lifetime it would be fun to take a drive and do it."

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