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The best kept secret in music


"New Britain Herald"

REVIEW: Feathermerchants -- "Unarmed Against the Dark" (Innocent 12th Street).

Usually it’s trouble when your lead singer takes a powder, but for Feathermerchants the arrival of new vocalist Shannon Kennedy has injected a powerful dynamic and the band has avoided a sophomore slump after its superb debut.

Her voice is lovely, expressive and versatile. While the band has shed none of its exoticism, Kennedy’s ability to handle sultry pop vocals has allowed main songwriter Pete Veru to hand her songs of subtle passion while the band arrangements veer from deep roots grooves to impossible-to-forget hooks.

As always, the melodies are complex and original, the words veering on the mystical and the deft production touch of Jim Chapdelaine (who is also lead guitarist and player of all things stringed) is subtle and rich without ever losing track of the vital backbone of each song.

While Veru shoulders the majority of the songwriting, delivering songs of dark mystery with a deep rhythmic pulse (aided by the insistent drumming of Jon Peckman), the rest of the band tries their hand at composition as well.

Chapdelaine offers a sparkling pop sensibility, Kennedy’s "Daffodils" is smoky dance-floor ballad, and Peckman leads the band on a dark journey down a path filled with exotic rhythms and found sounds.

This is one worth listening to repeatedly, because it reveals its splendors slowly and deliciously.

Ed McKeon hosts a folk, roots and Americana radio show each Wednesday from6 to 9 a.m. on WWUH, 91.3 FM.

©The Herald 2003
- Ed Mckeon


feathermerchants--feathermerchants(feb 2000 Innocent 12th st./Rykodisc


Feeling a bit camera shy


FEATHERMERCHANTS create richly-crafted songs that paint American soundscapes journeying deep into a common human psyche’. Founded in 1998 by former Wall Street junkbondsman Pete Veru, FEATHERMERCHANTS feature the ethereal, taut vocals of Philadelphia-native Shannon Kennedy, who can phrase lines with an uncanny sense of imagination and strike a mood with the resolve of Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies).

After 17 successful years in the world of commerce, Veru chucked it all to pursue his lifelong dream of songwriting and guitar playing. Fortunately for us, Pete’s aspiration was not one of escapist folly, but instead reveals a deep level of artistic skill that makes one wonder how he managed to keep his musical vision bottled-up for so many years.

Adding greatly to Veru’s vision is guitarist and producer Jim Chapdelaine, whose own musical skills won him an Emmy for writing and producing the music for the PBS documentary Making of “Amistad.” Although known in Hartford, Conn., as a guitar legend who sits in with Les Paul, Chapdelaine’s national reputation comes as a highly-prized producer featured in both EQ and Mix magazines. As one might suspect, Jim’s expertise adds not only a level of guitar virtuosity to Feathermerchants, but also an unbeatable sonic production quality to their recordings.

Joining FEATHERMERCHANTS on drums from Jim Chapdelaine’s studio is Jon Peckman. Nothing comes out of Chapdelaine’s impeccable studio sound without Peckman's drums and the band is fortunate to have such a high-level percussionist.

FEATHERMERCHANTS’ new sophomore album, UNARMED AGAINST THE DARK (Innocent 12th St. Records), has already received a substantial nod from the music industry as the renowned record label Rykodisc made a rare move in picking up this indie band’s new CD for national distribution in July, 2003. General Manager of Ryko Distribution Jim Cuomo says: “This is a major step forward for this band in both songwriting and production value. A very mature body of work.”

In addition, the usually keyboardless Feathermerchants were able to recruit ex-Allman Brothers/current Rolling Stone Chuck Leavell to play on two tracks (All the Way Home, Brooklyn Ferry). Says Veru, “I met Chuck through a mutual friend and gave him a copy of the record at the Stones show in New York. He had a listen and liked it a lot. Next thing we knew, he was able to fit in a session during the Stones down time in December and just like that, he was on the record. It is a true honor to have him on this project.”

Although UNARMED AGAINST THE DARK is receiving early praise from music executives, high marks and popular support are something FEATHERMERCHANTS have learned to live with from the start. The band’s 1999 self-titled debut received international praise, coming from music industry trade magazines like CMJ and Album Network’s Totally Adult, the Hartford Advocate, the UK’s Phantom Tollbooth, and Mexico’s Enfonia. Feathermerchants CD was also broadly accepted by radio, receiving airplay on over 300 college stations, 40 public radio stations, and 2 commercial R&R stations. Additionally, the disc stayed at #1 in New York City on the Amazon.com Indie Music Chart for an unprecedented 90 days. The album’s song “Water and Dreams” was on the soundtrack to the film “Above Freezing,” which won the Audience Choice Award at the Seattle International Film Festival, where the band was also invited to play live.(Veru even makes a cameo in the film, portraying a gangster.)

Before FEATHERMERCHANTS even had a record, the band was invited to perform at New York City’s immense Intel Music Festival, where they came in 4th out of 300 acts (including Freedy Johnston, Jules Shear and Joey Ramone) in its Best Band poll.

Armed with their new UNARMED AGAINST THE DARK CD, which is “a major step forward” from their highly praised debut, FEATHERMERCHANTS are primed to take their distinctly delightful and insightful songs to a broader audience at new heights with even more stellar achievements.

Radio: Going for Adds May 12th (Planetary Radio Group)
In Store: July 8th 2003
Label: Innocent 12th St. Records/Ryko Distribution
Tour: Various dates in the Northeast