Written by Traci Rogers
Apr 07, 2012 at 06:00 PM
ImageThanks to Seabrook’s Gene and Cindy Cole for exposing me to some of the area’s finest musicians over the Easter weekend at their second annual Lake Mija Jam Fest!

Having only known Gene Cole via FaceBook music circles wherein he and I discuss Gram Parsons’ and Townes Van Zandt’s biographies at great length, meeting him in person only heightened my respect and admiration for a fellow music lover once he introduced me to his and Cindy’s eclectic and equally passionate network of audiophiles.

Cole, a guitarist and singer himself, first moved to Seabrook with his wife Cindy in 2002.

“I didn’t really know anyone around here to play [music] with.  I was missing that,” Cole reminisced.  As fate would have it, “I ran into an old friend from high school, Ray Simpson, who I hadn’t seen in 20 years or more.”  Simpson and Cole tracked down other musician friends via word of mouth and social media. “The idea of putting something on for the spring was born; it all started to come together.”  The first Lake Mija Jam Fest was such a success “that the overwhelming opinion was that it would not be the last jam,” he told me.

The lake’s origin remains in question, but as Cole tells the legend, the community developers were clearing out vegetation before neighborhood construction began.  What remained was a sandpit until a storm blew through Seabrook and tapped an underground spring.  As a result, the community was built around the private lake that was named after the developer’s wife.  Community anglers often catch black bass, crappie, catfish and tilapia.

“Supposedly, it filled up so quickly that there is heavy equipment still located at the bottom of the lake.  Someone’s misfortune, our big gain, I guess,” Cole explained.

And a gain it was as we all enjoyed the warm breezes enveloping us in a setting comparable to a sunny vacation luxury resort!  While some attendees sang along with Jim and Diana Hendrick’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” performance from the swimming pool overlooking the lake, others enjoyed pot-luck dining in the cabana shading.

I met Danny Kristensen, John McKay and Bobby Fossier, three fourths of Kemah’s Swamp Shack resident band Almost Endless Summer.  Their relaxed harmony on “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn!  Turn!” soared like Byrds migrating toward the warmth of the south coast.  Just as easily, the boys of the Gulf coast beaches kicked it up a notch with “Help Me Rhonda” on the sun and fun-filled Holiday weekend.  Endless Summer’s underlying camaraderie only stimulates their natural abilities of predicting one another’s vocal or instrumental bends.  Needless to say, a common love of music binds the band’s decades-long friendships both on and off of the stage.  Check them out at: www.almostendlesssummer.com

Given the Holiday occasion, the performers, and their choices of songs, I noticed one recurring theme:  the spiritual.  Whether the spirit-filled theme was intentional or of a Divine nature is beyond my comprehension.

ImageSitting in with Almost Endless Summer was bassist Father Nick Novak, another long-time friend and high school classmate of Cole’s.  The retired Brown and Root employee began leading Baytown’s Trinity Episcopal Church 11 years ago.  Right after the AES set concluded with the Ecclesiastical “Turn!” and the meditative, Quiet Beatle’s signature song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” we had a brief moment to chat about how the Divine influences music.

“I think blues is the most spiritual music; with its Gospel roots, there’s so much feeling and emotion attached to it.  My favorites are Stevie Ray Vaughn, B. B. King and Freddie King.”  With profound insight, Novak added, “Music is a bridge to spirituality, and I think that’s why we’re seeing more churches offer both traditional and contemporary [music] services [on Sunday mornings].”

Next, I met Joe Phillips and Tino Trevino, a duo from the Monumentals band. The two constants of the band met and began playing together two years ago in the Pasadena/La Porte area.  Trevino, 30, a more introspective songwriter type, collaborates with Phillips, a classically trained musician with three decades of experience on his resume. Their set included originals written by Trevino and co-arranged with Phillips, as well as covers done in original Monumental fashion.  Like most duos and bands, they’ve had their creative differences, but those differences only serve to make their music stronger.

In keeping with the spiritual theme I had recognized earlier, Trevino’s most prized song, “Seasons Changing,” is a sincere, autobiographical tune of decisions made at the crossroads of life. As the song accelerates toward its full circle “coming home” line, Phillips pounds the drums and sings a dexterous harmony that mixes well with Trevino’s whiskey-soaked vocals.  Also, Trevino said that he “wrote the song ‘First Step’ for my son who is the most beautiful thing in the world, but you know, we all have first steps whether it’s a child’s first steps or [one’s substance abuse] recovery.”  After all, a challenging step is one of the many interconnecting aspects of the human condition.

ImageOn a lighter note, the duo performed a handful of covers with a little help from fellow musicians at the party.  Diane Hendricks added a hue of vocal harmony to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Cherry Bomb” before the Monumentals set out on a version of “Folsom Prison” that I had never heard, yet it rocked the crowd!  For Trevino’s acoustic “Going to California” cover, I noticed his voice change from raspy to a clear baritone.  One of his loyal fans Buck Vanderburg, a patron at Pasadena’s Sam’s Place, told me that his “favorite ‘Tino’ thing is when it’s just him, his guitar and a microphone.  He really knows how to move me.  Simple but profoundly spectacular!”

Make sure to look up and LIKE the Monumental Band on FaceBook.

I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to hear all of the performers of the afternoon/evening.  I would have liked to have listened more closely to a fellow by the name of Tommy Turner who, with a lone guitar, played what sounded like the music of Townes Van Zandt, one of my all-time favorite songwriters.  While focusing upon interviews, I wasn’t certain of the lyrics Turner was singing, but I was certain that he had a fine finger-picking technique, much like the late Texas songwriting sage.

Again, thanks to Gene and Cindy Cole for sharing their Easter weekend with me!  They have turned me on to some of the best kept secrets south of downtown Houston!  With the summertime quickly approaching, make it a point to enjoy the coastal breezes with Almost Endless Summer and The Monumentals!  Their music makes the beer taste colder!