Travis Koester – Mister Travis
10 Tracks – 32 minutes
Lincoln, Nebraska native Travis Koester releases what he says is his annual album release for 2024 following 2022’s Out with the Old and 2023’s Alberta’s Blues. As occurred with the previous album, Travis is focused primarily on his blues guitar. He does offer some vocals on the album including three by his wife, Becky. She has performed with Travis for over 20 years, both in his band as a bass player and as a vocalist. Any other peripheral instruments on this album are also played by Travis.
He first picked up the guitar 31 years ago after listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. That led to a study of many of the early blues stars with a deep appreciation of Elmore James, which influenced him to learn the slide guitar. While sharing the stage with local performers Magic Slim and Nick Holt in his early career, Travis says he is now primarily focused on his studio work and has only rarely returned to the stage in recent times. He has said that his inclination for the instrumental blues stems from listening to the music of Magic Slim and Jimmy Thackeray.
Nine original songs and one public domain song opens with “The T-Bone Shuffle” featuring a stinging guitar and drum back beat. Becky provides vocals on “Lonesome Whistle Blues”. She sings “You packed up and left me and did not even give a reason why”. “I will find you baby if it takes my whole life to track you down.” Travis offers vocals on a rocking “The Girl Can Cook” with a litany of food that she offers and he “probably eats more than I should”.
Next, Travis sings “I ain’t got a woman to call my own, ain’t got no money… but I grew up on hard times” and it “Ain’t That Bad”. “Howl For Me” gets things jumping again with Travis telling her “Honey, scream all night long until your daddy comes home.” Becky provides the vocals on “Joe Turner Blues”, which has an unknown composer but has been performed by many previous musicians including W.C. Handy, Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt and Nat King Cole with an ever-changing array of lyrics. The original song starts with a story of a great flood of 1892. The variation heard here appears to be based on a 1940’s jazz song by Big Joe Turner but modernized into yet another version.
Travis pulls out the slide guitar for the instrumental “I Keep on Cruisin'”. Travis sings “When My Baby’s Walkin” “I go insane…all I do is smile because you know she is walking with a twist”. “She has a wiggle in the middle”. Becky declares “Give Me All Your Lovin'” “Honey, like you used to do…need it every morning and in the evening too”, another shuffle. The album concludes with “Weary Blues”, a slow, quiet slide guitar instrumental.
Travis offers easy going, but interesting guitar and vocals that makes for a pleasant listen. The song lyrics are simple but effective in invoking the intended moods. Put on the album and just lay back for a comfortable stretch of the blues.