A hallowed heritage can be hard to live up to. Expectation is often intimidating, but when your granddad was someone who happened to be one of the most iconic folksingers of all time, the bar is set so high, it’s all but impossible to even think you can come close.
For Cole Quest, being the grandson of the great Woody Guthrie could easily be both a blessing and a curse. His birthright certainly provides him with a gateway to recognition, but the level of expectation is also unrealistic, and comparisons to his famous forebear gives him plenty to overcome, especially at the outset.
Consequently, Quest and his band, the City Pickers — Quest (reso-guitar), Christian Apuzzo (guitar), Mike Mulhollan (banjo), Matheus Verardino (harmonica), and Larry Cook (bass) — are wise not to even attempt to emulate anyone other than those with whom they share a similar sound and sensibility. Their six song EP, Self [En]Titled mostly hews to the bluegrass basics, while employing a personal perspective and a shared sense of spontaneity. No, he doesn’t neglect his genealogy entirely; a take on the fanciful Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, a song originally written by Woody and later completed by Billy Bragg, adds an old-time element that’s obviously keyed to a natural niche. So too, there’s an irreverent attitude found in songs such as Ostrich Therapy and Bitcoin Gambler, each a timely commentary on the crazy contradictions that add to the madness of today’s modern malaise.
Mostly though, the ensemble sticks to more familiar-sounding fare. The instrumental medley, 7-11/Foggy Mountain Rock, owes its approach to Flatt & Scruggs, Jim & Jesse and other influential players and pickers. If I Still Had You makes a similar statement. On the other hand, the heartbreaking My Sweet Little Girl taps into universal feelings, but focuses on the heartbreaks of loss that still lingers.
That then, is the true relationship Quest is able to maintain, that is, the ability to connect with listeners in a wholly human way. It’s the thing that Woody always wanted.