Drive my car into the ocean

A friend and I were talking about road trips.

“I get into trouble driving long distances alone,” he said, alluding to highway hypnosis. I replied something about being so ADD that my eyes are always bouncing around the car interior like a pingpong ball, so no problem for me. The only time it ever was near-lethal? Tooling over Donner Summit once while listening to the snooze-inducing Cowboy Junkies.

I like driving. It’s a fairly sweet place to listen to new music, and even lock into something and listen to it over and over. This I did over the weekend, after a new five-song EP by Two Sheds, which was released commercially only through digital-music channels, showed up in the mail.

Sacramento’s music scene has generated a bumper crop of talented women who write, sing and play music in recent years. And if there’s a single-hand list of the finest ladies in local music, Two Sheds’ Caitlin Gutenberger gets a digit. The songs she writes are gems, she’s a singer with unforgettable presence, and her group—Caitlin on guitar, her husband Johnny on bass, plus a roving company of regulars that includes Jackpot’s Rusty Miller, James Finch Jr., Spider Silk DressAmber Padgett and others—seems poised to make a pretty swell impact outside of the north state, with a tour about to commence and a full-length album due later this year from Filter US Recordings, a Los Angeles-based independent label.

Although the press release that came with the disc lists the set’s bookend cuts as the emphasis tracks, two of the three songs in between them are knockouts. “Perfect” is a waltz with an exquisite melody that floats heavenward for a couple of verses before kicking into a bridge wherein Gutenberger’s voice dances in counterpoint with a violin; musically, it’s the finest moment of these five songs. “WTF” is the set’s outlier, an electrified anthem that owes way more to the Pixies than to Lucinda Williams, with a superb “what the fu-uck” chorus. (The remaining song, “Undertow,” is a stripped-down demo that pales next to the songs that frame it.)

Now for a slight downside: Several of the songs feature Gutenberger lazily rolling her lyrics around in her mouth, the vocal-technique equivalent of rubbing one’s eyes upon being awakened from a long, satisfying nap. Now, nothing wrong with naps, but that vocal style—the whispery tones, the diction partially sourced from ancient blues field recordings, the barely awake vibe—has become shorthand for some kind of singer-songwriter authenticity, not unlike the way trip-hop producers overplayed their hand by dubbing in old scratchy vinyl sounds to convey a retro vibe.

Fortunately, Gutenberger’s songs stack up so nicely that they overshadow any nods toward current musical trends. And at least she’s picked Lucinda Williams over, oh, Madonna as a role model. You can check the music out at, or at, or see them live on Friday, August 29, at—I swear this is the last time I mention a certain club with a sailing-ship mural on its facade for a while.

Speaking of Vadge and old boats, yours truly stumbled into Jerry Perry’s Madonna birthday bash Saturday in time to see Naughty Platonic, Flounder, Saucer and I Scream on Sunday play before a packed house. Well, fiddlesticks. Anyway, Perry’s lined up a bunch of bands to perform the Beatles’ “White Album,” in sequence, come November 22, at the same nautical club. Which should be a helter-skelter experience.