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Rocky Mountain News (US)
Denver, Colorado, newspaper
Wednesday, December 4, 2002

America at her gait

Scarlet's Walk takes Amos many places

by Mark Brown
Rocky Mountain News - Colorado

It doesn't matter what anyone says. With her new album, Scarlet's Walk, songwriter Tori Amos knows she's made some great music; she has a satisfied chuckle as she talks about it.

This comes at a time that could be a crisis in another artist's career. She left her longtime home, Atlantic Records, for the same reason many artists bolt these days.

"The philosophy has changed. The focus was more on stock shares," she says. "It became so huge that the music wasn't even secondary."

She ended up on Epic Records and promptly issued the most ambitious album of her career. Scarlet's Walk is a very catchy, commercial album (though what that means these days is anybody's guess), but it's also filled with meaning. After a decade of hits and soul-searching songs such as Crucify, Cornflake Girl, God, Silent All These Years, Me and a Gun and more, Scarlet's Walk seems to bring everything together. Amos plays at a near-sold-out Magness Arena on Thursday.

The split from Atlantic might mark a change in her career, but she's not buying into any sentimentality. "'Fresh start' is not something I use. It's a cliche. I don't want anything to do with it," she says. "Everything in my past is part of who I am. There are calluses on your hands."

Scarlet's Walk is a journey post-Sept. 11, even though some parts of the songs had popped up before that.

"It's an accumulation of my travels, and I was on the road last year which inspired the whole thing," she says. "Tidbits of it were calling before I was on the road, but it didn't make much sense. I had no idea why there were references to America; I just rolled my eyes and thought 'That doesn't make much sense.' Then it started to make alot of sense."

Much of the tone was set by the fact she now has a child and was suddenly up all night.

"I had a one-year-old on the road," she says. "So I'd be on the bus, watching the signs go by through the night. That's when I would write. I usually don't write on the road. I used to sleep on the road! I haven't slept in a long time."

Scarlet's Walk is among the most melodic work Amos has ever done, especially after some of the jarring soundscapes she used on her last record, Strange Little Girls. Songs such as Crazy and Taxi Ride are lush, melodic and gorgeously harmonized.

"There's always a choice with every record which way to go, sonically. Because it was a road trip, there was a nostalgic quality to it in the songwriting. I had [Fleetwood Mac's] Rumours as a benchmark."

Since it involved travel, Amos adopted various sounds from various parts of the nation to tell the story.

"As the story started shaping itself, I began to see it as a sonic novel. I began to see I was travelling across the country. I began to see that the songlines had to align themselves with the land. This was a road-trip record. Wherever [Scarlet] goes influences the sound. We were very conscious of where the songs were occuring; we had maps out all the time."

Last tour was just Amos and her piano. This time there's some of that, but with a full band for much of the show as well.

"I'm the kinda gal that has a whole bunch of Adidas, yet I have a pretty good boot collection. Why does a girl have to wear Adidas all the time? So we have rythym on the road, as well as just the piano," she says.

Fans will also find something different this time around. Amos has started a no-standing policy for most of the show.

"People get really upset right now if they've got a ticket and can't see," she says. "You have a mutiny on your hands."

The fans who get those up-close tickets work hard for them, she says, and "you know me - I'm not gonna have one person hold 6,000 people hostage. That's not gonna happen at my show. It's crap."

Fans are to sit down and listen during the main part of the show, she says.

"People can stand once we hit encore time," she says. "The inmates can take over the asylum at the end."

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