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Duluth News Tribune (US)
March 28, 2003
Tori Amos takes a metaphorical walk across America, keeping in step with her introspective style
by V. Paul Virtucio
News Tribune Staff Writer
Tori Amos' music has always looked inward.
Confessional. Poetic. Delicate. And sometimes a little disturbing.
On her debut album, "Little Earthquakes" (1992), her lyrics pondered religion, gender, relationships and sex. Her single "Me and a Gun" is a musical narrative about her own rape experience.
Amos' follow-up albums were similarly replete with self-investigative tunes, such as "Cornflake Girl," "Professional Widow" and "Bliss."
Recent events in her life and in the world around her have altered how Amos sees her music and her role. She's been a mother since 2000 and has been responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She's less concerned with finding herself.
"Honestly, becoming a mom put me in a different place," said the 39-year-old pop singer/songwriter. "It's about being a protector, I think, and making sure there is a world to hand over to the little ones, that they won't look at us and say, 'How could you do this? Where were you in 2003?'"
So, in her seventh and newest album, "Scarlet's Walk," Amos offers music that looks at the United States from the perspective of someone traveling across the land.
Scarlet, who is Amos' thinly veiled alter ego, meets people and has experiences that give her new perspectives on her relationship with her country -- not so much in a patriotic sense but in a nurturing, spiritual vein. In that way, the outward-looking "Scarlet's Walk" still invites listeners to be introspective.
"That's the goal," Amos said. "Some of my favorite visual artists -- when let's say I'm looking at a book of photographs -- I can sit down with it and feel like I can ask my own questions. And it propels me to ask things I haven't before just because I'm looking at the world differently because of their work."
Amos will perform her newest songs as well as her classic hits at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Auditorium.
"Scarlet's Walk" contains 18 songs that chronicle Scarlet's trip across America, from meeting a burned-out porn star on the West Coast to giving birth to a daughter on the East Coast.
Most of the characters and events in "Scarlet's Walk" were based on Amos' real-life experiences, after which she stored many of these songs in her mind. Her career has taken her by tour bus through every state except Alaska. But it wasn't until a cross-country tour in 2001-02 to promote "Strange Little Girls" that the idea of a narrative about an American journey came to her.
"Scarlet's Walk" became Amos' first comprehensive response to changes in her life.
"In the end, Scarlet realizes that to be a good mother to her daughter, she has to be a mother to her mother -- her spiritual mother -- what we call America," said Amos, who lives in Florida with her husband, Mark Hawley, a recording engineer, and their 2-year-old daughter Natashya.
In releasing the album, Amos said she's creating a fire -- in a metaphorical sense -- for people to gather around and exchange their troubles, ideas and feelings. She wants her music to be accessible to people on all sides of any debate or politics.
Amos is troubled that U.S. leaders see war as a resolution for America's anti-terrorism campaign. But during times of war, she's more concerned with ensuring that people are allowed to ask the questions and find the answers to resolve their problems.
"If you're going to be about liberty, you're going to encourage people to search and not control them or stop them or edit them or intimidate them," said Amos, who is the daughter of a Methodist preacher. "I'm not a good American because I'm asking questions? That's emotional blackmail. That's not freedom of the soul on any level. That's not about liberty."
The North Carolina native has been considered the godmother of the female singer/songwriter role since the 1990s. Combining her haunting, ethereal vocals with a fearless alt-rock piano sound, Amos has carved her niche as a fusion between the intellectual and emotional.
Amos' lyrics have always been considered cryptic and her instrumental styles have always leaned toward experimental. She wants listeners to seek out their own meanings in her music, regardless of her intentions.
Amos has sold 12 million albums worldwide and has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. "Scarlet's Walk" recently peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard's Top 200 Album chart.
"A lot of people are troubled -- no matter what side they're on -- about the moral compass of society. Questions are being brought up now that make more of us squirm," Amos said. "I invite the demons and shadows to spaghetti. I don't leave them stalking the children at night. I found that a much better way to deal with the demons."
V. PAUL VIRTUCIO covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at (218)279-5536 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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