This review of Scarlet's Walk appeared in the February 7, 2003 issue. Many thanks to Alix.
Epic (EK 86412)
On Scarlet's Walk, her self-produced Epic debut, Tori Amos has crafted a concept album centered around a woman named Scarlet whose cross-country road trip takes her on a journey of self-discovery and an encounter with the sad, bitter past of her Native American ancestors.
Though Scarlet's Walk is a beautifully textured work anchored by Amos' lyrical piano, it's not an easy story to follow. Her lyrics lack the clear detail necessary to fully understand the entire scope of Scarlet's journey. Still, it's easy enough to get a handle on the diverse group of characters she meets along the way, among them the disillusioned "Amber Waves" who dreams of stardom but whose trajectory takes her "from ballet class to a lap dance straight to video" and the evangelist who doesn't practice what he preaches in the edgy "Pancake", prompting Scarlet's dry observation, "It seems in vogue to be a closet misogynist homophobe."
Scarlet has her share of adventures: a romantic fling with a dangerous man in "Crazy", and a period spent with a Latin revolutionary where she balks at his unwavering dedication to his cause in "Sweet Sangria" ("give me a bloodless road").
Though the quality of the material varies over the course of this 18-song set, Scarlet's Walk is a trip worth taking, even if it is in the end a melancholy one. Set against a backdrop that includes the old Indian battlefields of Wounded Knee and the Black Hills of South Dakota, the narrator's outrage at the injustices suffered by the Native American people runs like a dark current through this deceptively beautiful work.
- by Tierney Smith