Although the band is barely a year old, Eugene-based Michael Tracey and the Hi-Tones have already produced a debut album, "Got to Get Away." "The emphasis for me was to put something out there that stretched the boundary of blues," said lead vocalist and songwriter Michael Tracey, who also plays the harmonica.

Although the band is barely a year old, Eugene-based Michael Tracey and the Hi-Tones have already produced a debut album, "Got to Get Away." "The emphasis for me was to put something out there that stretched the boundary of blues," said lead vocalist and songwriter Michael Tracey, who also plays the harmonica.

Tracey's four-person band includes drummer Theo Halpert, bassist Sylvain DuPlant, guitarist Steve Arriola and keyboardist Almond Davis. Paul Biondi plays saxophone and other horns on the album.

Tracey said the group's nontraditional blues sound comes from the band members' different musical influences.

"I consider myself a blues player, but for me, I am influenced by R&B and soul so I inject some of that in there," Tracey said.

In February, the band was voted "best contemporary blues band" in the Rainy Day Blues Society annual Rooster Awards in Eugene, and Tracey was voted "best male blues vocalist."

Tracey and the Hi-Tones will play many of their originals as well as a second set, a tribute to Stevie Wonder, at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 26, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

The Stevie Wonder set will feature about a dozen songs from Wonder's album "Songs In The Key Of Life." Tracey said that recording was the first album he ever owned.

As the band began rehearsing the songs, they realized Wonder's songs were far more complex than they had thought. One song, "Summer Soft," changes keys eight times during its course, Tracey said.

Their first set at Alex's will include all the songs on their album, "Got to Get Away." The 10-song album features nine of the band's originals and one cover, "Ain't Nobody's Business." The album was produced independently about six months ago after Tracey was returning from a break from music that lasted nearly 10 years.

"A lot of the songs on the album were haunting me ... and the only way to get them out of my head was to record them," Tracey said.

Among his original songs, he says his favorite is "Fool to Let Her Go," written when he was 21 years old after his girlfriend broke up with him.

"I kind of have a rule that if I haven't lived that or can't relate to that, then I don't play it," he said.

Tracey said he is already collecting material for his next album which he hopes to release in about six months.

"The first CD was a learning process, but we're excited about some of the music the band is composing now," he said.

Although Tracey writes the majority of the songs, he said he always runs them by Davis, who has a knack for improving them. Davis, who hails from Iowa, earned a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Oregon and also has his own band, "The Almond Davis Band."

Arriola introduced Davis and Tracey after he met Tracey at a blues jam. Arriola has played throughout the United States, Mexico and China. He has performed alongside Leon Russell, Eric Burdon, Corey Stephens, Robin Trower and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

DuPlant, born in France, toured Europe in 1970 with a French rock band. For the past 24 years he has been playing in the United States and settled in Eugene.

At 23, Halpert is the youngest member of the band and one of the most-sought drummers in Eugene.

Tracey got his start as a kid when he found a harmonica among his brother's stuff. He became devoted to the harmonica and started performing in blues jams when he was 23, earning a reputation around the Northwest for his soulful voice, versatility on the harmonica and strong songs.

"It's a magical line up," he said. "When I get this band together, it's the sum of its parts."

Cover for the band's show at Alex's is $3. Call 482-8818.