With the advent of digital audio workstations, effects can be easily added to a recording by two primary means during the audio mixing process: hardware and software. A solo artist with a drum machine and loops can produce a band sound with just one track of live music. Producers like Phil Spector, famous for the Wall of Sound, were famous for creating a very full sound.
On the other hand, you have much roots music that is produced as naked as possible. The focus here is on getting as close to the live sound as possible. I have spent a whole day with my cousin working with microphones and mild effects to get the an accurate recording sound of his wonderful Collings guitar.
The focus of Tresbear Music Studio is to get as close to a live sound as possible. Empty spots are considered to be musical punctuation. This approach really fits our music: simple and organic in nature. My cousin, on the other hand, fills his music with as much production value as he can. His music is more complex; and with that, there seems to be a need to fill the empty spots using various music production methods.
The bottom line is, this is largely a matter of taste, preference, and what production value is befitting to the particular music. Shane Lamotte argues in a blog the need for solid content prior to productions. He notes a number of superbly produced products that nobody wants. There is a worthwhile thread on the Gibson Music Forum, asking whether “Modern Music is Overproduced.” Even the Beatles were criticized, and rightfully so, IMHO. Much of The Beatles’ later music was so overproduced that it could not be played in concert. This is not much of an issue for a strictly studio album.
This brings up another issue: Is the music going to be played live? If so, production values should be focused toward making the CD playable in a live setting. I would not want a key component to the sound of a particular song (e.g., dual fiddles when only one fiddle is available on stage) to make the concert version sound inferior to the studio version. When listening to “overproduced” music, there is the impression that the music is not real and has lost its organic nature. There may be so much background that the music itself is lost or becomes “muddy.”
Personally, I prefer studio music that emulates live concert music. I want the music to sound real, coming from instruments, especially acoustic instruments, Perfect comes at a cost. When note for note perfect, music can lose its feeling and soul. I have been described as a minimalist, which is for the most part true. I prefer live recordings, warts and all, to highly produced studio albums. So the answer for me is to produce an album that sounds like the musician are in the same room with you.