Album Review of
Cole Quest and The City Pickers

Written by Joe Ross
October 30, 2021 - 11:40am EDT
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Since Bill Monroe fathered bluegrass music in the 1940s, many bands have used the genre’s foundational elements to build their own signature sound. Such is the case with the New York-based Americana collective fronted by Cole Quest Rotante, grandson of Woody Guthrie, that provides lively, witty and eclectic string band offerings with a unique flair incorporating rock and blues elements. Core band members play Dobro (Cole Quest), guitar (Christian Apuzzo), banjo (Mike Mulhollan), harmonica (Matheus Verardino) and bass (Larry Cook).  Special guests Sam Reider (organ, electric piano), Sean Trishka (drums) and Erik Alvar (bass) add some flavorings for those who like their contemporary bluegrass with adventurous tastes.

The closest these guys come to traditional sounding bluegrass is their guitarist’s original and album closer, “If I Still Had You.” A song originally written by Woody Guthrie, “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” was later completed by Billy Bragg. Fortunately, Verardino’s harmonica is not overplayed on the album, and songs like “Ostrich Therapy” and “If I Still Had You’ are both tasty and engaging, with bluegrassy groove and soaring vocals.  “The Bitcoin Gambler” is good-time tale, presented in a tight, inventive way. Instrumentally, Cole Quest and the City Pickers’ medley of “7-11 / Foggy Mountain Rock” has a lot of that same energy and exuberance of rustic traditional bluegrass, but in a more 21st Century way with drums and Hammond B3 organ in the mix.  Another radio-friendly cut, the poignant “My Sweet Little Girl” is an evocative statement about one’s attachment to a deeply beloved pet. These guys may play their bluegrass with slightly twisted picks, but it’s those kinds of interpretations that will win them a flock of fans. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)