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The Arizona Republic (US)
December 15, 2002

Amos casts critical eye on America

by Larry Rodgers

Tori Amos loves America enough to have visited all 50 states while writing songs for her new musical travelogue, Scarlet's Walk .

But she says the journey left her somewhat heartbroken as she contemplated our nation's battered global reputation, corporate treachery and doubts about our government's post-Sept. 11 behavior.

The masterly Scarlet's Walk , which is filled with tales of self-discovery as well as images of corporate greed, Big Brother and the subjugation of Native Americans, ended up being a well-timed "sonic novel about America and the nightmares, as well as the waking, the sleeping, the shadows," Amos says.

"A year ago, if this had come out, it might have been a little close to the bone for some people," the 39-year-old singer says. "But because of certain inner betrayals that happened within our own country with Enron and everything else, a lot of normal people have lost everything.

"People are now in a place to be not so defensive of our leadership no matter what. Now, it's a little more . . . 'Maybe we should question what's going on, internally as well as externally.'"

Amos, who performs twice in the Valley on Monday , sounds most concerned about the Bush administration's push to expand surveillance of Americans as part of the war on terror.

"Our forefathers and foremothers wrote a constitution to protect our rights. Now, we haven't always upheld these, as we know with the McCarthy era. But there are . . . the seeds being planted that are similar to the McCarthy era right now, where they can invade privacy."

The view from outside our borders is just as troubling to Amos, who lives in England with her engineer-husband, Mark Hawley, and their 2-year-old daughter, Natashya. (The family also has a beach house in Florida.)

Concern about our overseas image as "the bully" is shared by college students whom Amos invites to discussions both on the campuses she visits and backstage.

"We're very isolated from the world and how the world sees us," she says. "What the university (community) is slowly beginning to see is that they're going to be handed a world that they might not want, because the anti-American sentiment has never been greater."

The general sentiment about Scarlet's Walk is that it is the most accessible of Amos' eight albums, a soothing mix of her exquisite piano work, diverse percussion by Matt Chamberlain and permeating bass by Jon Evans.

Amos jokes that motherhood may have softened her musical approach to such hot-button topics as religion and tension between the sexes, subjects that have populated much of her work since 1992's careermaking Little Earthquakes .

"I guess I'm not in that ritualistic, burning-men-in-the-volcano phase," she says in reference to her dark Boys for Pele album of 1996.

"Maybe being a mommy has kind of made me think that roasting marshmallows is more yummy than roasting men - this week, anyway."

The album art for the CD, which traces the journey of "Scarlet" - whom Amos describes as "me sometimes, she's a drop of blood sometimes, she's the land sometimes" - includes a map detailing where the seeds of each song were planted. Arizona figures in three: the debut single, a sorta fairytale , the ethereal Crazy and the chanting Wampum Prayer.

Amos, whose grandfather was a Cherokee, views reservation land in Arizona as one of America's more magical places:

"When you get into areas [northeastern Arizona and New Mexico] that are influenced by Native American spirituality, that just strikes a chord with me. Always [on] those drives, just something in me, something happens."

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