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The Plain Dealer (US)
Cleveland, Ohio, newspaper
August 16, 2003
The thoughtful world of Tori Amos
by Gary Graff
Special to the Plain Dealer
As her first album title indicated, Tori Amos likes to create "Little Earthquakes" with her art.
She favors skewed melodies and song arrangements. She draws inspiration from "fairies" and other idiosyncratic muses. On her latest album, "Scarlet's Walk," she relates to America not as a land but as a feminine personality with characteristics far greater than mere scenery.
So when Amos began plotting out a summer tour, it's not surprising that opening act Ben Folds appealed to her for reasons beyond the fact that he's another piano-playing troubadour.
"I liked the idea that we play the same instrument, but from a very different perspective," says Amos, 40. The North Carolina-born minister's daughter now lives in Cornwall, England, with her husband and their young daughter.
"He's so entertaining, very funny; he's like those great vaudevillian entertainers - which, I think, is a high compliment. So he's out there as the male, being naked and alone but funny, and then I come out with my rhythm section and do something that's bigger and darker and has more texture to it.
"I like the paradox of all that, playing with the gender thing a bit."
Consequently, Amos adds, it's unlikely she and Folds will play together during the tour.
"We're in the same solar system," she explains, "but it's very much Venus and Mars. His world is very much his world, and mine is mine."
And Amos' world is a pretty full place these days.
That comes courtesy of "Scarlet's Walk," which she released last fall. It's a heavily thematic work, but Amos prefers that it not be referred to as a concept album. "I like to say story," she explains.
Amos' "story" is drawn from the events of Sept. 11 and its aftermath, during which she toured the United States and tapped into the mood of her audiences and others she met along the way. She responded with a song cycle that portrays America in human rather than inanimate terms.
"It's about real events - really about a woman's search for what she believes in, and for the soul of what America is," says Amos, whose career has taken her from classical studies at the prestigious Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University to the rock band Y Kant Tori Read before the release of her first solo album, "Little Earthquakes," in 1992.
"Who is this being, really - not this thing that's being pimped out by our leaders, but America. People were seeming to look at 'America' not as an object but as a being, almost, a friend, that kind of thing. It was essential that Scarlet develop a relationship with the soul of the land.
"This is nothing new to many cultures, but to America it was. It's always, 'We are Americans,' but what about her, she who is our land? She's been here a lot longer than we have."
Graff is a free-lance writer in Beverly Hills, Mich.
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