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September 23, 2002

Tori Amos Writes Scarlet Letters, Draws Tour Map

by Joe D'Angelo

After walking in borrowed shoes on her last album, Strange Little Girls, Tori Amos has returned to wearing the pair that fits best on Scarlet's Walk.

Amos' seventh album, due October 29, follows last year's covers LP with an introspective journey set along a cross-country road trip. The notion for such self-discovery sprouted while touring for Strange Little Girls in the weeks following September 11.

"After the Twins went down, it was a time the masks were down for people, and people were asking questions that they haven't asked in a while," Amos said. "I was asking questions. So we hit the road, it was the most logical thing for us to do; I've been doing it for so long, it's where I find some of my answers. So we went out, and the road trip is part of my life, and the songs started coming."

Amos sings from the perspective of Scarlet, and her trademark fiery mane leaves little doubt as to her protagonist's inspiration. Scarlet's Walk loosely traces Scarlet's path as she travels 3,000 miles to come to the aid of a friend, an aging porn star named Amber Waves. Her name is a metaphor for America, complete with its myths, misconception and sub-surface beauty.

"There's nothing that I can seem to do to make Amber see herself how I see her," Amos explained, using the first person to refer to the album's character. "She's lost pieces of herself that she can't seem to reclaim. So the story takes off from there, and I meet people along the way. Events happen that make me question what I believe in and make me question what my country has been up to, and I start searching out answers: Who are the good guys? Because it doesn't seem like the ones that are calling themselves the good guys are doing the things I thought they were in the country's name."

Beginning with her solo debut, 1992's Little Earthquakes, and continuing through her last album of original material, 1999's To Venus and Back, Amos has always been poetically confessional, never wavering from floating emotions, personal tragedy or romantic disasters atop her delicate yet progressive piano melodies. Covering the 12 tunes that comprise Strange Little Girls -- which ranged from Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" to Slayer's "Raining Blood" to Eminem's "97' Bonnie & Clyde," in which Amos portrays the doomed wife locked in the trunk -- gave her a fresh perspective on her own work.

"It's like when you're an architect looking at another architect's plan," she said, "and you see how people solve problems that you might not solve in that way. That fascinates me. It was the same with sonic structure, crawling inside these songs, finding their secrets and how chord structures would resolve themselves. In a way, without knowing it, it rubs off on you. It was a fascinating experience for me, getting to know other people's girls."

The first single from Scarlet's Walk, "A Sorta Fairytale," has surfaced on radio and a video, directed by Sanji (Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill) and featuring a cameo from actor Adrien Brody ("Liberty Heights," "Oxygen"), is expected in mid-October. The song appears early in the album's sequencing and provides proof that, unfortunately, we eventually awake from even the most pleasant dreams.

"[Scarlet's] in love at that point," she explained, "and [the couple is] taking that classic trip up [Highway] 101 and [Highway] 1 on their way to San Francisco, and they cut off because they are having the trip of their life, and they go out West to the Southwest. And that's where the masks come down for them. Who they thought each other was is not who they really are.

"It's one of those things where it's not about not having enough love for each other, it's just that you don't know why you can't make it work. You don't know how you are losing each other and you're sitting right in front of each other in plain view, but you can't seem to make it work. And that's why it's a 'sort of' fairy tale, because she wasn't a princess."

Amos will begin a six-week tour, named On Scarlet's Walk, in support of the album. Singer/songwriter Howie Day, on the back of his debut album, Australia, will serve as opener.

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