REVIEW: Cole Quest and the City Pickers “Self [En]Titled” Is Bright, Stellar Performance


Cole Quest and the City Pickers – Self [En]Titled – 6-Song EP

This is a New York City Americana collective fronted by the grandson of folk legend Woody Guthrie & made up of city musicians playing what? Bluegrass?

The eclectic pickers join Woody’s grandson Cole Quest Rotante & perform his originals, a few crucial covers & traditional nuggets (like Flatt & Scruggs) with a spirited, sometimes high-lonesome sound.

Cole Quest and the City Pickers’ Self [En]Titled 6-Song EP (Omnivore-Drops Aug 16) was produced by Grammy Award-winning Steve Rosenthal & Grammy-Award-winning engineer Michael Graves. The EP was recorded in Jan. 2020 in Brooklyn, NY. Bluegrass country?

The collection’s graced by the world-class harmonica of Matheus Verardino — heard throughout this fine EP.

The songs start with fiery musicianship on “District Therapy.” Mike Mulhollan’s banjo picks distinctively with Verardino’s pristine harmonica. Vocally, this is a style similar to The Suburbs. It’s all well-recorded & captured in its bluegrass brilliance.

“The Bitcoin Gambler,” has excellent Cole vocals with a combination of his resonator guitar/dobro, Christian Apuzzo’s acoustic guitar/harmony vocals, Larry Cook (bass), Matheus’ harmonica, & Mike’s banjo. It’s basically a song written in the tradition of the late John Prine & touches upon the perils of cryptocurrency.

The marvelous rescue of Woody Guthrie’s words compositionally realized by Billy Bragg during his partnership with Wilco on “Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key,” creates a minor classic. The Christian Apuzzo vocals are bright in a stellar performance.


Banjo-fire, harmonica cinders, acoustic guitar smoke heats up the Flatt & Scruggs’ instrumental “7-11/Foggy Mountain Rock,” & these bluegrass embers have all the elements for a seasoned bluegrass melody. All the regular musicians are featured including Sam Reider (Hammond B3), & Sean Trischka (drums). This is a smartly conceived piece of work. Bluegrass brought into the 21st Century.

The most accessible song is “My Sweet Little Girl,” which is more pop-oriented & commercial – catchy with its bluegrass dressing sung by Cole. Sam plays Wurlitzer electric piano & Erik Alvar comes in on bass. It’s not about the loss of a girlfriend but losing & missing a deeply beloved animal companion. Probably a dog?

“If I Still Had You,” has mainstream production & succeeds. None of this comes off sounding retro or corny. The 23-minutes go by fast & you’re left looking for more like in an empty cup of chocolate pudding. The entire 23-minute CD is enjoyable listening.

Grandpa Woody & Bill Monroe too — would’ve been proud of this grandson. Not bad for a bunch of City boys. Available @

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