Less than the sum of its parts.
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.