Travis Koester – Alberta’s Blues | Album Review

Travis Koester – Alberta’s Blues

Self-Release – 2022

10 tracks – 28 minutes

Lincoln, Nebraska native Travis Koester is a self-taught guitar player, first picking up the instrument 30 years ago. Travis cites that as a teen his first connection to the blues was when a friend handed him a copy of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s The Sky Is Crying. He was blown away by the sound and immediately started buying all kinds of blues albums to begin his study of the music.  He spent his days sitting in his room listening and trying to play along with the cassettes and cd’s. He developed a deep love for Elmore James leading him to learn slide guitar.

Lincoln is home of the Zoo Bar, which regularly features blues performers. Magic Slim and Nick Holt lived in Lincoln and were regular performers. The two would frequently sit in with the performers and certainly became an early influence on Travis. Travis cites Ryan Larsen who played with Travis in one of the bands, toured as a drummer with Nick Holt and John Primer, and now owns the Roots Music Shop in Lincoln as one who has been a great adviser to him over the years. He also lists Jimmy Thackeray and Lil Ed as performers he had connection with early on and influenced his guitar playing.

Travis has played in a number of bands over the years playing mostly blues/rock. His wife joined him in one band as their bass player and vocalist. The bands played strictly as regional acts at various festivals and events. He and his wife were also nominated by the Omaha and Arts Awards a few years ago for Best Americana album.

In early 2022, Travis released an album Out with the Old. As the title implies, the album provides songs that he performed over the years. Travis said “I can’t move forward if I keep looking back, one of the reasons I released Out with the Old. Folks around the Midwest and blues fans know who I am as they have either seen me play somewhere, heard my name, heard my music, and seen or heard my interviews or articles as I’ve grown up. As I’ve always said, bands can come and go but artists will keep making music. That’s what I’m trying to do. Sure, I have lots of influences and lots of experiences, but Alberta’s Blues is just me and my guitar doing what I do best, and I hope folks dig it.”

Travis is listed as a vocalist for past music, but as he states above, he is now focused on playing the blues on his guitar. The album is ten original solo instrumental songs he produced and plays all instruments on. He says he always enjoyed the instrumental stuff that Thackeray and Magic Slim did and plans to go that route with his future solo stuff.

The album opens with the bouncy “Pichle Ballin’ ” That is followed by the title song, a slide guitar strut with a drum beat back up. “Possession” has a surf guitar feel with tremolo effect. “Thor Hate Love” is a blues rock number. “Jumpin’ For Jay” offers another upbeat song with a jazzy guitar hop.  “A Thousand Years” features a slow acoustic slide. “Ghosted” rocks out with a haunting rhythm. On “Trollin’ ” Travis slips into an electric slide guitar with an opening Spanish guitar feel.  “Combustion” lives up to its name as his guitar blazes through the song. He ends the album with another bouncy song, “Stop Flirting”.

A friend that listened to the album with me said it sounded like some of Ronnie Earl’s early material. Certainly, a reasonable comparison.  And yes Travis, I can dig it. It is a fun listen.

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