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American String Conspiracy

Help the Poor

(Avenue A; US: 13 Oct 2011; UK: 13 Oct 2011)

Okay Songs Marred by Poor Production

This would be a better album if someone had bothered to record it decently. American String Conspiracy offer kind of urgent, acoustic, bluegrass-y music with plenty of thematic emphasis on social justice (the record is titled Help the Poor, after all) and solid musicianship. Two Achilles’ heels are present: the unpolished vocals of Gary Keenan and that tin-can production. Keenan’s vocals might get better with repeated listening – plenty of folkies have made their mark with rough voices and less-than-steller pipes –and there are some good songs here. “Freddy’s King” trundles along agreeably, and “Wrong Road” is a so-so song with great lyrics. The production is a deal-breaker, though. With virtually no bottom end, the midrange gets pushed up into the treble and everything sounds horrible. Helping the poor is a great idea, but, first, help yourself to a decent engineer.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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