Debbie Davies

With the Blue Steve Martin Band. Friday, September 7, at Wilbert's.

Debbie Davies shreds. Shes playing Wilberts on Friday.
Debbie Davies shreds. Shes playing Wilberts on Friday.
Blues albums are tricky creatures to size up. All the right ingredients can be present: sterling guitar work, gutsy vocals, and classic tunes. Yet the overall result can still sound formulaic.

Take Blues Blast, the latest from guitarist and singer Debbie Davies. Her vocals are engaging, kind of like Bonnie Raitt's in the early '70s. Her guitar playing -- as well as the axework of guests Tab Benoit and Coco Montoya -- is pointed, terse, and accomplished. And the harmonica of Charlie Musselwhite sears like a drunken 4 a.m. heartache.

But unfortunately, the songs are somewhat predictable. ("Sittin' and Cryin'" is followed by "Movin' and Groovin'"-- what, no "Peepin' and Hidin'"?) What's more, the Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker covers are uninspired, while their production has the same slick sheen plaguing most modern, mainstream electric blues.

All is not lost, however. On "Sonoma Sunset," a languorous 10-minute instrumental, Davies and company squeeze every last ounce of pathos from their instruments; they reach into our chests and seize our hearts.