What you get when you’re All Strung Out | VailDaily.com

What you get when you’re All Strung Out

Wren Wertin
The band All Strung Out performs at Red Tail Camp Saturday, March 15, 2003.

When a fire swept up two buildings in Red Cliff, displacing eight people, the boys of All Strung Out and Eric Cregon, owner of Mango’s, knew what they had to do – throw a party. The games begin at 8 p.m. today at the Red Cliff restaurant, and anyone with a hankering to eat a fish taco or tap a toe for charity is invited.

“It’ll be a Thursday night show like normal, but there will be a $5 donation at the door – an encouraged donation,” said Cregon. “We’re going to donate all that money to the Red Cliff fire disaster fund that was started at First Bank. We’re going to do another benefit later down the road, but I’m just trying to bust one out real fast.”

Tami Gosnell is expected to join in the festivities with All Strung Out.

Ron Mitchell, guitarist and songwriter for the band, was in the process of moving into the old bank building, one of the burned buildings. He bought it two years ago, and sunk in a fair chunk of cash revitalizing the interior. He was seen hosing off his record collection at the scene, trying to save the vinyl visions.

Harvey Craig, the group’s irrepressible mandolinist, describes Mitchell as the backbone of the band.

“He’s the true blood that keeps us all going,” said Craig. “He’s got good karma, and he has a great energy that keeps us all excited and happy about the projects. It makes me try for sure. And it makes me want to do better. Every time we’re together it’s a new experience. It keeps flowing, keeps going. It’s insane, to do the music like that.”

The boys describe their music as kick-it-the-funk-down-grass.

“Basically we’re just a bunch of extremely talented strung-out hippies,” explained Craig in a previous interview. “We like to drink whiskey too – and we have a designated driver. So we’re responsible drunks.”

“I think we all just kind of lucked out in being on the same page and doing the same kind of music,” said Mitchell. “It just clicked without much effort.”

Though usually a string quartet with Chris Wade (guitar and bass) and Jim “Liquor Store Jim” Lennon (bass and guitar) rounding them out, they occasionally morph into a quintet with percussionist Merlin Sagon, who may or may not be a part of today’s show. Sagon is often busy flying through the skies of Vail with Camelot Balloons.

“He just adds a perfect twist to our music,” said Craig.

“Jim Lennon was talking about Merlin for so long, building him up,” said Mitchell. “And he’s everything Jim said he was – really easygoing and funny, and easy to work with. And I’m ecstatic about the music.”

The music has a flair of its own. Though they use a conventional bluegrass-based set-up, they fling in their own musical backgrounds, from conventional rock to reggae, at will. Covers include the works of Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash – the list goes on – but it’s the originals that distinguish them. Mitchell is responsible for the majority of them.

“We’ve been working a lot on our originals, adding a little more to them here or there,” said Craig. “And I’ll tell you what – playing originals is awesome. They flow so much easier because you’re not trying to imitate somebody else.”

Mitchell takes his inspiration from most anything around him – the Trail of Tears, relationships, his imagination. He’s been writing for nigh on 20 years.

The group made their debut at Mango’s last year, and plays there often.

“For us it’s the Grand Ole Opry,” said Craig.

It also nearly missed disaster in the fire. Cregon was on the roof, hosing it down. Instead of losing his restaurant, he only suffered a minor setback with water damage and food and equipment losses. All things considered, Cregon feels pretty lucky.

“If there’s any way I could put in a real big thanks to the fire department, I’d love to,” he said. “They rocked it pretty good. They foamed up my building so it wouldn’t be a big loss. Just really big props to all of those guys.”

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

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