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Quiet storm

Allysen Callery returns with Hobgoblin’s Hat
By CHRIS CONTI  |  February 10, 2010

MUSIC021210_allysen_main 
THE HAT FITS Callery.

The only aspect of Allysen Callery's talents more impressive than her nimble, nylon-string finger-picking is her unmistakable voice. That soft, entrancing falsetto and subtle poetic quips adorn her new album, Hobgoblin's Hat, Callery's sophomore release, which was over two years in the making since her 2007 debut Hopey. The new CD will be available beginning this weekend at her record release party at Church Street Coffeehouse in Warren.

"I had been a little shy about revealing myself fully with Hopey," Callery told me while chatting up the new disc. "With Hobgoblin's Hat I was able to explore deeper and darker memories and feelings.

"Hobgoblin's Hat is more of who I am."

Callery spent time in Taiwan as a toddler during the Vietnam war, and said the effect has stayed with her. She was raised in Providence and now resides in Bristol. Her childhood love of fairy tales and mythology clearly have left an impression. Callery's father played a pivotal role in her musical upbringing and eventual guidance in spirit.

"My dad was really into a wonderful mix of styles, particularly British Isles folk and the Incredible String Band, Joni Mitchell, and the Beatles.

"I picked up guitar when I was 14, my father passed away and I wanted to feel closer to him," Callery told me. "I learned how to play on his Martin Classical."

Myles Baer returns as engineer and producer; Hobgoblin's Hat was recorded at Baer's Fox Point residence. The album title is a nod to one of Callery's favorite authors, Finnish author Tove Jansson, who penned and illustrated The Moomin series and comic strip. Callery is often billed with her music mates as the Land of Nod (a Robert Louis Stevenson poem); she decided to officially form a touring band during a solo show at White Electric.

"I had just been booked to play a show at the Knitting Factory in New York City, so I pretty much pulled Myles and [Nod bassist] Brendan Whipple aside and said, 'Listen, we are going to be a band and we're calling it Land of Nod,' and they just nodded in agreement," Callery said. While Whipple and Baer play on the new album, both gave their blessing to bill Hobgoblin's Hat as an official solo release.

Callery's often entrancing songs are crafted behind a simple premise: "I'll just start fooling around and a little guitar phrase will come out," she said. "I can't actually 'write' music, so I'll run to my computer and just start recording immediately so I don't lose the tune.

"It's important that I am completely alone while writing — not too easy with a family of three in the house." Callery said. As far as lyrics,"Words will just slip out as I'm playing, and on the playback it sounds like I am speaking in tongues."

Callery also incorporates her previously-published poems, including "Vincenzo (Part 1)" and the opening track "Tiny Armageddon," one of Hobgoblin's finest, where she addresses a weary soldier: "What did you see while standing surrounded by death/Curious to step between the bodies and find your own self laid out amongst them."

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