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The 'best of' Siskiyou Summit

Talented performers — and recording artists — know what they have ... know what their "best of" is. If Bob Dylan were to tally his best music, the result would be large collections of "best ofs" from each of the songwriter's periods of experience.

It's much the same with anyone who's performed for a long period of time — whether it be on a global or local front.

The members of regional bluegrass ensemble Siskiyou Summit have had the pleasure of performing together since 1999.

"It was right about this time of year," says the group's mandolin player Jeff Jones. "We got a gig for a June wedding and started putting our songs together."

The original five-piece lineup changed when Dobro player Bob Evoniuk joined the group in 2006, and, in 2010, when upright bass player Jim Calhouse passed away.

"He was a great," Jones says of Calhoun. "He wrote great songs and played banjo. That was when Sam Cuenca joined us as bass player."

Siskiyou Summit is rounded out by fiddle player Crystal Reeves, banjo player Rick Nelson and guitar player Glenn Freese, and for the past 15 years has presented live shows that mix original music, traditional bluegrass and acoustic interpretations of songs by Dylan, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple and other classic rock artists.

Siskiyou Summit will perform its "best of" at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Roxy Ann Grange, 1850 Spring St., Medford. Tickets cost $15, $10 for kids 11 and younger, and can be purchased in advance at Nelson's Brake & Alignment Center, 1303 N. Riverside Ave., Medford, or Music Coop, 268 E. Main St., Ashland. The doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Siskiyou Summit's annual concerts at the grange began in 2002, when the group performed music from Joel and Ethan Coen's 2002 comedy film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

"We did that show for five years straight at the Roxy Ann Grange," Jones says. "People liked it a lot, but then we realized it wasn't giving us a chance to do our own music."

Saturday's concert will showcase four short sets of the group's "best of": Six favorites from "O Brother," along with a set of traditional bluegrass from artists Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers and more.

"There'll be some fiddle tunes, and Johnny Horton's 'Sleepy-Eyed John,' then we'll morph into an old-timey fiddle and mandolin duet called 'Little Rabbit,' " Jones says.

Original songs by the band members will follow, with one song from each member.

"Our own music includes songs that we wrote as long as 20 years ago," Jones says. "Crystal's 'Picture of You,' was written when she toured nationally with mandolin player Robin Flower, and Bob wrote 'Railroad Man' back when he and I and Glenn were in the band Foxfire."

Jones will play his 2004 humorous poke at hypochondriacs called "My Disease."

"I wrote it after talking to my 87-year-old mother on the phone once a week," he says. "She always had a complaint about her health."

The show will conclude with Dylan's "Forever Young," Petty's "I Won't Back Down," Deep Purple's "Pictures of Home," folk singer and songwriter Steve Goodman's "Seven Bridges Road" and an up-tempo, vocal trio of Rod Stewart's "Maggie May."

"We try to stay true to the original arrangements, but, for instance, we don't have a keyboard player or drummer, so there may be a Dobro break for an organ riff or a mandolin break to imitate a percussion solo."

Siskiyou Summit's members have played together so long that it makes for an easy performance experience, Jones says.

"We have a musical understanding among us," he says. "Everyone has a part, and there's that ensemble sound that happens. It partially has to do with the style of music. In bluegrass, every instrument has a role. The mandolin keeps the two/four rhythm and the bass keeps the one/three beat. That's what makes bluegrass thrive.

"When we play as an ensemble, we let the music shine by adding great sound and drive to it. There are no egos involved. We're playing for the love of the music.

"We like to elevate the image of the bluegrass music we play by donning collars and ties," Jones says. "Bill Monroe would always say 'It's a show. We're not just playing music. It's entertainment.' "

Siskiyou Summit will dedicate Saturday's show to the late Jo Reed, longtime manager of the Roxy Ann Grange.

Siskiyou Summit