Thanks to Laura
Heywood for sending me this Scarlet's Walk
BY TOM LANHAM
Special to The Examiner
All heads in the Nob Hill restaurant turn
when Tori Amos strolls in, wearing stiletto heels, flared jeans and
chiffon blouse, her long locks tumbling past her shoulders.
But the singer is oblivious to the
stares. She's on a mission, possibly the most important of her
decade-plus career (except for the rape-victim helpline/counseling
service she launched several years ago.)
Speaking in a whisper so soft it's
often inaudible, she outlines the message she's trying to convey on
"Scarlet's Walk," her 17-trackCD on Epic that hits stores
It begins with great news. After three
miscarriages, Amos gave birth to a daughter, Natashya, two years
And with her new role as mom, she
says, "I think I left that place by the fire, the place of
womanhood as 'me first, my needs, my sexuality' to begin to give back
... That's what I got out of nurturing her, realizing that you must
pass the torch. What kind of world is she going to be living in if I
keep my eyes closed?"
Today, the North Carolina-born,
Cherokee-blooded pianist lives in Cornwall, England. But on a bus
tour of the States last year backing her all-covers album
"Strange Little Girls," she started taking the pulse of her
She began researching how post-9/11
America was feeling, from state to state, city to city.
On the basis of dialogue heard in
roadside diners, casual conversations with strangers and old friends,
and interaction with spiritual elders from disparate Native American
tribes, Amos drew up maps of a crippled country, and an imaginary --
yet semi-autobiographical -- character named Scarlet to traverse
It's quite a journey, from the
opening chat with an aging porn star, "Amber Waves," to
religious, mythological themes in "Pancake," "Mrs.
Jesus" and "Wampum Prayer," to the self-explanatory
"I can't see New York" and "Don't Make Me Come To
Amos' glissando operatic trill makes
it all sound like gospel.
The singer's' keen eyes and ears paid
off. She says, "I listened while I was on tour, and I spent a
lot of time observing. ... Before I realized it, the record was
writing itself, the songs were coming, and the characters are based
on real people, the events are based on actual events."
The tour starts on the West Coast
with the character Scarlet, who meanders and doubles back on herself
"She's propelled to find this
being that we call America -- what her soul is -- not how she's been
pimped out by her leaders over the last several years," Amos
Amos, 39, says she knew she was on
the right track when an older Native American woman came to see her
-- not her concert.
Amost says, "She made her way
backstage and said, 'I have a message for you. You're going to tell
America's history, but not his-tory, you must tell her-story. Because
it's time for the people who hold the land and the people who own the
land to come together for her survival.' "
Amos wonders, "Are we, as a
whole, as Americans, realizing the crossroads that we're at? ...
We've been attacked. What is it going take for us to see that we have
to take action and see what our leaders are doing in our
She says what she found on her
travels, and what she addresses on "Wampum Prayer," is that
to find America's soul, you have to go back to the Native American
idea of being a caretaker of the spirit of the land.
Amos took Dee Brown's "Bury My
Heart At Wounded Knee" to the next level. Through Scarlet, she
visited places where the events actually occurred and learned about
them, and about all the treaties that were broken.
She says, "My great, great
grandmother escaped the Trail Of Tears and hid out in the Smoky
Mountains, and the stories came down to me through her. And that
really propelled me into asking questions. I needed to know what it
is that I believe."
Amos fans who haven't gotten
enough of their idol in "Scarlet's Walk" will get a nice
CD-ROM bonus with the disc: a way to access "Scarlet's
Web," a cornucopia of photos, lyrics, videos and secret songs. A
limited edition of the album will include maps, Polaroids, a special
DVD and a bracelet charm.
Today, Amos can't help but see the
United States from an overseas viewpoint. When she returned to
Cornwall, she says, she was stunned by how the world looks at
While there was a lot of empathy
after 9/11, today, she says, "America is viewed as the bully on
the playground. .... it's painful to behold if you love the soul of
the place, the roots of her and her essence."
And especially if you feel like a
caretaker for her.
But Amos adds, "This is the time
for the torch to be lit in the ones who are going be left with this
place in 20 years. They're in universities now, but this is the time
for them to ask their questions, to take their own road to see what
they believe in. And Scarlet is merely a thread for them to follow.
That's all she is."