St. Petersburg Times
An interview with Tori and an album review of Scarlet's Walk appeared in the November 3, 2002 edition of the St. Petersburg Times newspaper. Many thanks to Brian Orloff (The author of the article/review!), and laurel for letting us know. You can read the interview below or at the St. Petersburg web site. You can also read the album below or at the St. Petersburg Times web site.
Gathering 'round with music
"I kind of love the idea of a sonic novel," Tori Amos says, speaking from New York about the thematic strands that course through her new album, Scarlet's Walk. "Storytelling by the fire with music, and how you take the stories from town to town, and the stories shift because of what you heard about in the last town." "I kind of love the idea of a sonic novel," Tori Amos says, speaking from New York about the thematic strands that course through her new album, Scarlet's Walk. "Storytelling by the fire with music, and how you take the stories from town to town, and the stories shift because of what you heard about in the last town."
Amos' latest journey starts Thursday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, where she kicks off her tour. From there, she will travel across North America, following the path of her protagonist, Scarlet, on a quest of discovery.
"Stagewise, I'm trying to bring the old idea of, like, my grandfather sitting on the porch, singing the songs, tapping his feet on the porch making rhythm," she says.
"This is more of a campfire gathering. The tours, this is where people gather and exchange news, like you did in the old days. Because you can do that, as you all do on the Net, but sometimes you don't look into each other's eyes."
Amos, 39, has long been known as a starkly confessional lyricist, starting with her song about her rape, Me and a Gun, on her 1992 debut CD, Little Earthquakes. Scarlet's Walk is the Peabody Conservatory-trained pianist's seventh release, and her first album of original material since 1999's To Venus and Back.
Technology will augment the Scarlet's Walk CD and tour by allowing fans to follow Amos' journey on the Internet.
"The CD . . . is a key, and you put it in your computer, and it will take you to Scarlet's Web," she says. "Scarlet's Web will be running through the whole tour. The maps will come alive in detail on Scarlet's Web. . . . Within a few weeks, you'll have the whole record in detailed map form."
For instance, if a listener wants to know more about Wounded Knee after hearing about it on the album, the site can connect him with resources about American Indians that Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., is compiling for Amos' project.
Amos also will keep a journal of the tour that fans can follow on the Internet. "So that when we're going to Tampa, when we're going through other places, we're making our own discoveries. . . . People will be sending us messages, linking us up to other ways of thought."
Amos says this journey will be physical, emotional and, at times, political.
"You can't be crossing America at this time without deep, troubling political questions coming up," she says. Her lyrics delve into the terrorist attacks of last year, among other hot topics.
"I think that . . . some of our leaders were suggesting that if you were questioning anything about what we were doing as a country, then you didn't love America. I found that offensive. And I found that incredibly manipulative. So that kind of emotional blackmail started to stir up: 'Hang on a minute, if we are the land of the free and if we really love this creature we call America, her soul, then we must begin to ask the questions.' "
Betrayal -- by government, politicians, friends and lovers -- is another major theme in Scarlet's Walk. During her journey, Scarlet is hardened by the betrayals of trusted friends, which forces her to re-examine her role in relationships.
"She thinks she's found her soul mate in the second song, and that's going be pretty much it," Amos says. "And then she realizes that she was not his fantasy. She can't be his fantasy. She's a real woman with a heavy heart. She gets pulled, and she walks.
"And then, really, the story sort of opens up. . . . She's not tied to anyone, and she starts beginning to listen to how other people take in information, how they see the world. So, that's really how she begins to find out what it is she believes in."
On the song Virginia, Amos sings, "She may betray all that she loves/ and even wait for their savior to come/ still she'll lay down her body /covering him all the same." The lyrics bring up another of Amos' consistent themes, sexual politics.
"I think that right now women in the West can be deluded that they're making a choice of freedom when, in fact, they're choosing to be enslaved by the patriarchy by becoming objectified," she says. "Because only we can be our own real mother, our own real protector in the end."
Amos describes Scarlet's story as a thread that can reel listeners into direct, continuous communication.
"Scarlet's Walk is a story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. And then I'm Tori taking Scarlet's walk, and we're all making our own body maps," she says. "But I like the idea that the story doesn't stop for me as a person. Scarlet's story stops. But I can now have my own."
Tori Amos, with Howie Day, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa. $32.50-$42.50. Call (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; or go to www.tbpac.org.
Tori Amos, Scarlet's Walk (Epic Records)
Culled from the beat tradition, Tori Amos' masterful, intriguing new album, Scarlet's Walk, follows its protagonist's trek across America a la Jack Kerouac. Scarlet's journey is more graceful than, say, Sal Paradise's (Kerouac's alter ego in On the Road), with textured arrangements that favor Amos' adroit piano playing.
Amos sounds lovely on the fluttering Your Cloud, her background vocals melting into dreamy piano. The song gains much from its bucolic, expansive atmosphere. Emotionally raw songs such as Strange and the wistful, string-saturated Gold Dust weave together Amos' acute observations on human vulnerability and historical responsibility.
The title track, the most overtly political of the songs, is steeped in gauzy, Gothic organ and Amos' disquieting battle cry "leaving terra." In the song's direct chorus, Amos asks "what do you plan to do with all your freedom?" Her query is bolstered by gentle electric guitar, understated anger and a meticulous rhythm.
Virginia recalls early American settlements with its subtle groove and haunting lyrics, such as, "oh Virginia / do you remember / when the land held your hand."
Amos also taps into the post-Sept. 11 American consciousness on I Can't See New York. Its elegiac keyboards and pummeling drums distill the confusion and devastating memory of that day ("and you said / you would find me / even in death") into an affecting, angular song that stretches past 7 minutes but never strays into cliche. Plucky flutes and symphonic strings punctuate the Beatleslike chorus of Mrs. Jesus, offering needed levity after I Can't See New York.
Geography informs the album's sound, and tunes such as Sweet Sangria and Don't Make Me Come to Vegas benefit from the Southwestern percussive flavors and Amos' prodigious, rolling piano. A.
- BRIAN ORLOFF, Times correspondent
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