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National Post
October 2002

Added November 19, 2002

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A Tori article appeared in a magazine called "Inside Entertainment" which was part of the National Post in Toronto, Canada. The date I was given was October 2002. I am not sure if that is correct or if this is a daily newspaper and I need a more specific date in October. Thanks to Sarah Folkes for sending this to me. It was printed with the picture of Tori wearing the pink hat.

Looking for America: Tori Amos talks to Inside E about her cross-country identity quest with Scarlet's Walk.

By Nicholas Jennings

She has a reputation for flakiness. She's been called precious, precocious and yes, pretentious. When she first appeared in the pop scene, with her piercing falsetto, rococo piano and often overwrought lyrics, one critic even dubbed her "New Kook on the Block". Maybe artists who thank "faeries" on their albums deserve to be ridiculed. But Tori Amos has long since proven her artistic worth, taking chances with recordings that consistently push pop's boundaries. Scarlet's Walk, her latest, is no exception: a concept album featuring a cross-country journey with a character that serves as a metaphor for America. Amos wrote it while touring the United States in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 - a time, she says, "when all the masks were down". The experience, she adds, laid bare one fundamental question: "What is this place we call America?"

Sitting in Sony Music's Toronto offices, prior to a private, in-house performance, Amos curls up on a couch and gets down to the business of explaining the new album. Although born in North Carolina, raise in Maryland and a resident for many years of Los Angeles, the 39-year-old singer-songwriter now makes her home in England. But on that fateful day in September she found herself in New York, promoting Strange Little Girls, last year's unusual collection of cover songs.

Witnessing the fiery destruction of the World Trade Centre Towers - the "burning of the twins," she calls it - had a profound effect. "It's imprinted on you on a sensory level, first as a human then as a writer," says Amos. "As a composer, you take notice that you're witnessing a crossroads even, unparalleled for most Americans".

While on a subsequent U.S. concert tour, Amos encountered a myriad of emotions from her audiences. Native Americans who spoke with her pointed out a parallel with 9/11 - when the white man invaded the North American mainland Others asked questions like: Why is this occurring to us? and Do we have a part in this on any level? "In some cities", she say, "people called you un-American just for saying 'let's turn over some stones and try to find the truth.' "

Inspired by America's loss of its moral compass and by stories Amos' mother told of her Cherokee family's history, Scarlet's Walk follows a woman named Scarlet as she travels across the United States, trying to find out what she believes in. Each song represents a different stop along the way. The album opens on the West Coast with "Amber Waves", a piano ballad about a starry-eyed girl who goes "from ballet class to lap dance and straight to video". Scarlet then meets a Latino revolutionary in Texas, in the edgy "Sweet Sangria," and a Messiah in Delaware, in the rolling, hypnotic "Pancake". Both prove to be disillusioning figures.

A number of songs deal with native American places, past and present, that evoke the ancient spirit of the land - the most moving of which is "Wampum Prayer," a deeply stirring a cappella Apache hymn. After stops in Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, Washington D.C. and New York, where Scarlet witnesses a plane crash in midair, the album ends with "Gold Dust", a lush piece full of rich orchestral strings, in which Scarlet is ultimately transformed by the birth of a baby.

Amos herself has experienced the grounding effect of motherhood, with last year's arrival of a baby daughter. That experience resonated as she contemplated america and the meaning of the land. "Traveling around", she said, "I realized there's an almost physical attachment that people feel to certain places. The land has this almost umbilical chord connection to us as our mother," Then, catching herself veering into flaky territory, she adds: "Not to get into hippie-speak, but I think it's very primal, having just become a mother myself." She needn't worry. With the epic, very un-flaky Scarlet's Walk, Amos has produced a sonically gorgeous, bravely thought-provoking album.

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