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A glass of wine, soulful tunes

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

— Aldous Huxley

Incredible as it seems after 35 years, I keep discovering more to love about the Rogue Valley.

One standout among the perks we share is the incredible array of musical talent. Artists of all denominations seem to find their muse in the Southern Oregon ecosphere. Our beautiful wineries and tasting rooms have opened a new world for area musicians. When fine weather lands, folks enjoy escaping there with friends, a glass and quality tunes.

I first heard relative newcomers J (for Johnson) Brothers, Mark and Scott, at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville. The crowd that packed the tasting room indicated we were in for a treat. Mark handles keyboard and most vocals, while Scott plays bass and sings harmony. The pair, with Jake Riggs helping out on drums, drew my attention when unexpected favorites began drifting through the room — covers I never heard other bands tackle. Songs such as Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady” and Neil Young’s “Long May You Run” won’t be heard just anywhere. Bravo to Mark for taking on Elton’s “Benny and the Jets,” which had the crowd singing along. When the venue calls for a softer sound, they are willing and able, but we let them know it wasn’t a night for a background band. We all got up and danced.

I recently had the privilege of chatting with the guys at the beautiful Jacksonville home of Scott and his wife, Marie.

Scott began, “We both got started very early on where we grew up in a suburb of L.A. Our parents encouraged our music education.”

Music was a family affair, but Scott chose corporate accounting as a career until his retirement and relocation to the Rogue Valley to join Mark.

Mark added, “I started playing piano when I was 8 years old and took lessons from some great instructors in Los Angeles as a teenager.”

He began singing while studying environmental engineering but changed gears and earned his degree in music and recording arts in Chico, California. He’s an audio engineer enjoying his current position as manager with the Britt Performance Garden. Mark also owns a recording studio called Blue Jay Productions.

“We reinterpret classic songs. Jazz, folk, pop, rock and country.” The brothers’ focus is less about genre and more about choosing the right song. “It’s about connecting with people emotionally,” Mark said. “If the lyrics are moving.”

“We’re really looking forward to this year,” Scott said. “Getting out to play for the folks.” Find their schedule on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jbrothersmusic.

My next visit was with local favorite Jeff Kloetzel (rhymes with pretzel), who’s written songs, sung and strummed a guitar since age 11, about the time he thought about becoming a cowboy. But no, he’s not a C&W singer. Jeff’s extensive catalog includes original songs with a story, and timeless ballads using rhythmic guitar strokes and soulful vocals. Jeff’s gig schedule is crazy busy. I sometimes wonder if he has a twin. He’s booked into November so, yes, the man is popular. His signature hashtag, #lifeofamusician, alludes to the behind-the-scenes workload of a full-time artist making a living at his craft. Performance is the end product we get to receive.

When solo, about 20 percent of his sets are original music. With his band, Jeff K and the OverTones, it’s about 40 percent. But as Jeff said, there are so many approachable covers out there, and he puts his own spin on each one. Jeff’s love songs are romantic and real — perfect for date night.

“I never imagined I would make a living as a musician,” he said. Ten years ago, when Jeff applied for work here, his first job offer came from South Stage Cellars. He’d played with the better known artists in Hawaii for several years. He toured Japan, Seattle and L.A. But Southern Oregon was an opportunity wasteland when Jeff arrived.

“It was humbling beginning at the farmer’s market with a tip jar, coming off of big stages, but I think it really connected me with how people react to music on a daily basis and what power music can have over people.”

Jeff smiles at his teenage efforts at writing songs of unrequited love. That was before life and love informed his work.

“The muse comes and goes,” he said. During the ‘90s it came. He wrote 50 or 60 songs.

“I got burned out on a lot of things in life in the later 2000s. I started writing again about 2013. I’ve written a lot over the past couple years. I’ve been reinspired by a particular muse, I guess. Opened the floodgates again.”

Find Jeff’s schedule at www.facebook.com/jeffkloetzelmusic.

Happy Oregon Wine Month.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer and music lover. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com and follow her on Facebook.