Interview & Review: Midwinter Graces: Holiday Magic from Tori Amos

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Midwinter Graces, the recent release from feminist rocker Tori Amos, gift wraps traditional seasonal tunes and modernizes them into a collection of holiday favorites destined to become a Christmas classic.

Midwinter Graces is a mix of seasonal songs slightly simplified from their specific Christian theme to allow her to remain true to the many fans who embrace other forms of deity, cultures and beliefs. The bonus DVD explains her feelings when approached by Doug Morris, whom she considers a musical father, is Jewish and someone she greatly respects, on maintaining the specific Christian references.


Midwinter Graces is her second album of 2009 with Abnormally Attracted To Sin released earlier in the year. The religious overtones of both releases are more than cursory study for a seasonal release. She is a Methodist minister’s daughter and as a child and teen attended church faithfully. She explains, on the DVD, that there is no one more supportive of her career choices than her dad is and felt an obligation to her mother in maintaining the religious references they celebrated and also the weight of obligation to her personal pursuits. She is able to balance her beliefs by maintaining the seasonal themes and incorporating inclusive choices so to welcome all. This, coincidently, is the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


After hearing the entire release, I’m stuck on Pink and Glitter, a jazzy, smooth, Christmas tune with a Big Band sound. Amos loses her traditional vocals to a sultry, smoky, incarnation of a Billie Holiday blues singer. It is simply fabulous.


In a recent phone interview Tori and I chatted for a few minutes about the new CD, her background, future plans and pursuits. She is interesting, polite, well spoken and, honestly, very nice.


Janet Walker: Tell me the inspiration for Midwinter Graces?

Tori Amos: Well, the inspiration, I think, has been with me my whole life.  I’ve been asking questions about what people celebrate at this time of year before Christianity and in other cultures. In high school I started my research which helped me out considerably. Once I realized in March [of this year] that I was doing this project I had to act on this really fast but I’ve been working on it for forty some years without knowing or understanding I was working on it.


Janet Walker: Why did you choose to release the track A Silent Night With You?

Tori Amos: “A few of us chose it together. We thought that people get nostalgic at this time of year and that some time, with all the hustle and bustle, you forget what the real gold is and the real gold is your relationships with people.


Janet Walker: What are your plans for the future?

Tori Amos: I’m working on a musical called The Light Princess.  There is a song on Midwinter Graces from The Light Princess which is Winter’s Carol. This is my version of it. It will be somewhat different in the musical. You never want to say the final draft of the script because it is bad luck so I would say we’re getting close to a final draft. That’s my homework over the holidays.


Janet Walker: Where do you call home?

Tori Amos: Wherever my mom is that’s home. But we’re in Florida. My husband’s place is in England and so I spent time there. But I would say Florida is home. I’m a Floridian.


Janet Walker: Do you have a Holiday hope for the world?

Tori Amos: Balance. There is so much extremism from so many countries in all kinds of ways that if we could begin to think about finding balance in our life it would be a different world.


Janet Walker: I’ve read that you tour extensively, how do you feel about Europeans verses American fan base and acceptance?

Tori Amos: Well, what I would say is that Europeans travel a lot more just because their countries are smaller unless you are dealing with the Russians. In America people travel within the country. Some will take the trip and go over there. Usually you find that the US is more insular on how they see the world. So they work off the news that you get from within the country whereas Europe works more with international news. I think that is very telling on how issues are perceived.


Up until this president it was very difficult to travel in Europe. Because the last president, President Bush was so unpopular that all Americas were seen as extensions of his administration.  The perception made it difficult to travel. It was difficult not being confronted. Americans in my crew would have a difficult time going to the pub when things were really dark, after the second election. But once this president was elected, as an American, again when you see paintings of him in Germany in all kinds of places and you’re not demonized because you’re America, as all of were at some point, because he was so unpopular.  That’s the difference.


Janet Walker: As you’ve traveled what are some of the types of celebrations have affected you the most?

Tori Amos: Well, I would say that around the world there are people who are in a spiritual space and their ideology embraces many different cultures, ancient as well.  Some people are very aware that Mid-Winter was a time where people celebrated the re-birth of the Sun light and certain religions would have a solar deity. The Christians, their solar deity is Jesus. Some people understand this and can deal with it more holistically and they find their own way of bringing in the re-birth of life which was an inspiration for me.


Midwinter Graces is available in stores everywhere. The fourteen track disk contains holiday favorites such as Comfort and Joy, Star of Wonder and Emmanuel. A bonus DVD interview with Tori is also included. The entire release plays well for the holiday season and is destined to become a classic.


Happy Holidays to all and to everyone around the world! Bonne Fêtes! Buone Feste! Felices Fiestas! Frohe Feiertage! Sarbatori Fericite! Prettige Feestdagen!


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