The Crane Wives at The Living Room Series

The Crane Wives, The Living Room Series At The Hanson Theater, Benton Harbor, Michigan, September 30th, 2016

The promise of The Living Room Series at the Hanson Theatre has been the intimate experience brought by the small performing space and the universal emotions in the Americana music played there. This season’s debut, featuring The Crane Wives, elevated that closeness and brought the audience an evening unlike those experienced in standard music venues.

The Crane Wives, from Grand Rapids, quickly found their footing in the relaxed space. Early on, they referenced their own uncomfortableness in the room, it’s rounded shape leaving them “surrounded” by listeners and the quiet audience creating a void for them to fill between songs. Their admission immediately connected them to the audience and soon there was a regular banter, including a “Question & Answer” dialogue. This brought the strength of their music to the fore.

They are the most human of musicians; honest, flawed, and willing to acknowledge their own fears and divisions. Their lyrics are open, personal, and vulnerable and they brought that trait to the conversation with spectators. We were given insight to the stories behind the songs and the lifestyle of music the foursome lives, one they referred to as greatly familial, stating “we’re married to each other & each of our partners as well.”

Throughout the evening, we heard selections from the most recent of The Crane Wives albums, 2015’s “Coyote Stories” and this year’s “Foxlore”, as well as earlier cuts from the already growing library from the six-year old band. Their sound continues to expand with each release, blending the traditional sounds of folk and Americana with the energies of rock and pop.

The Mendel Center rounded out the evening with an expanded attraction in form of food and beverage. The Livery was in the house serving up three of their craft beers, along with a selection of food samples from kitchen manager Becky Wehmer. Pizza fans were treated to standards such as pepperoni, but also unique topping combinations such as Thai BBQ Chicken and the uncommon deliciousness of “Taste Likes Stuffing”. Beer lovers were offered a presentation prior to the show, discussing the history of the Livery, one of the oldest craft breweries in the region, and their beer-making process.

With an evening full of local flavors and music, The Living Room Series has kicked off a solid new season. Music fans should keep an eye on The Hanson Theatre, as they are quietly building some the best seats for live music in Southwest Michigan.

Check out the latest released from The Cranes Wives on iTunes & Amazon and watch their tour schedule on Updates on The Hanson Theatre and The Living Room Series can be found at The Mendel Center website.

The Living Room Series

This week brings us the latest season of The Living Room Series at the Hanson Theatre at Lake Michigan College. The shows bring growing Americana acts to the intimate space of the Hanson for a close and personal evening of live music.

Audience members, even in the farthest row, are within speaking distance of the musicians. The evenings feature plenty of great music and, often, personal chatter from the artists that listeners would miss at larger venues.

The debut show this year features none other than The Crane Wives. Listeners to the Anywhere The Needle Drops podcast may recall The Crane Wives as our guests on the show last Winter.


Always delivering a solid live show, The Crane Wives are sure to make for a great debut. They are currently promoting their latest album, Foxlore. The 2016 release quickly followed 2015’s Coyote Stories, giving us a pair of albums that exemplify the band’s continued evolution beyond the Americana sound. Both are filled with energy-driven music and provoking songwriting. Here’s a taste of Sleeping Giants, from Coyote Stories:

You can grab both albums from The Crane Wives on Amazon and iTunes.


The music begins this Friday night, September 30th, at 7pm at The Hanson Theatre on the Lake Michigan College Campus. You can purchase tickets here.

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Music Trivia Night @ The Brass Eye

Starting next week, we’ll be launching a new live event!

Anywhere The Needle Drop’s Music Trivia
Wednesday, September 28th, 7pm
The Brass Eye
205 N 2nd St, Niles, MI
No cover
Details on the Facebook Event Page


Join us Wednesday, September 28th at The Brass Eye in Niles for Music Trivia Night, hosted by AtND’s Justin Flagel.

Enjoy the finest in adult beverages from Bryan and staff at the Brass Eye while you test your knowledge of music, pop culture, current events, and more. Make a team or go it solo. Win glory! Prizes! The hearts and minds of the world!*

*Red Chuck Productions and Anywhere The Needle Drops do not guarantee glory nor the hearts and minds of the world. Glory is overrated and, if you haven't been paying attention to the presidential election, hearts and minds are really tough to win. There are, however, cool prizes at trivia night. And fun. Lots of fun.


Justin Wells- Anywhere The Needle Drops Podcast



Justin Wells joins me today to discuss his upcoming album, Dawn In The Distance. If you recall his last appearance on the show, he and I met in person prior to a local show and, in struggling to find a quiet recording space, ended up recording the entire interview while sitting up front in the band’s tour van. We weren’t able to connect in this person this time, but we made it happen over the phone so Justin could tell us about the transition from the band Fifth On The Floor to his new solo effort.  We’ve got a couple of cuts from the album on the show, with the entirety of “Going Down Grinning”.
That album comes out this Friday, August 5th. You can preorder now and get your ears on a few tracks immediately by heading over to, iTunes, and Amazon.


Anywhere The Needle Drops is brought to you by Red Chuck Productions.

You can support Red Chuck Productions on Patreon!

The Anywhere The Needle Drops theme music is by Ethan W. Kampa and Jeremy Whetstone.

Our sponsors help us make this show. Please support them!


Off The Water

Some of the readers here are followers of my regular column in Off The Water. If that’s you, you may have noticed my pieces have been missing in recent issues. Fear not! Though you may not see my work in OTW as regularly, stay tuned here to keep up on our written pieces and our podcast releases.

The easiest way to keep up is to subscribe. You can do so using the RSS button for subscribing to the written posts and by subscribing to our podcasts on iTunes and on Stitcher.

And always, your support for our sponsors or directly to us via Patreon helps keep this website running. I only have sponsors who I have personally used myself, whether it’s shopping on Amazon, renting games from Gamefly, listening to books from Audible, or getting the latest Firefly box from Loot Crate.

Stay tuned, because we have plenty more stories to tell!

Robert Irving III

Note: This piece includes an audio companion podcast of my interview with Robert Irving III, found at the bottom of the post.

With an incredible history, including numerous collaborations with Miles Davis, musician and producer Robert Irving III is continuing to live a life creating and promoting music and it’s history. Irving was exposed to the world of music at an early age in his hometown of Chicago.

“I came from a big gospel music family on both sides,” he said.

Gospel music led to an early interest in organs and pianos, but his first musical training came with the bugle. His knowledge of that instrument led to his recruitment into the Robert Taylor Drum & Bugle Corps as a teenager. He was drafted into the brass program at DuSable High School, entering into a group that had spawned jazz luminaries such as Nat ‘King’ Cole and Johnny Griffin. By the time he switched to Hirsch High School, he was playing multiple brass instruments.

It was at Hirsch that Irving would solidify the path that would eventually lead him to Miles Davis. His band teacher, George Hunter, was in a big band called The Moonlighters, a band which spawned the horn section for Earth, Wind & Fire. It was the same teacher also emphasized the importance of piano to Irving.

“That band teacher stressed if you’re serious about your horn, you want learn piano,” Irving said.

He would spend his time after school learning piano from Hunter. This gave him what he referred to as “the big picture of musical shapes,” educating him in scales, chords, and progressions that would apply to all of his future pursuits in music.

“That set a precedent and a discipline for me,” Irving said. “I was playing any song that I heard in all twelve keys.”

Robert Irving III would find his way to North Carolina, where he became very popular for his unique jazz skills in a region where radio emphasized gospel, country, and rock. There he would form a Top 40 band called Your Mama that would grow increasingly popular due to their regular playing of Earth, Wind & Fire music. He educated himself in music through practice, performance, and study of orchestration and arrangement while pursuing a degree in business.

“I felt that music is a business and that would be supportive of that side of what I needed to do as a music business entrepreneur,” Irving said.

He would return to Chicago after eight years, where Your Mama’s reputation and his previous connections with Earth, Wind & Fire would lead to the next step in his career. While attending a birthday party for the wife of keyboard player Larry Dunn, Irving was heard playing by Miles Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr. Wilburn invited Irving to replace his departing keyboard player in his band, Data. Miles Davis, after hearing the demo, in particular a composition by Irving called “Space”, invited him to join him to record in New York.

Irving would end up spending two months with Davis, recording all day to help him develop new music. The result of those sessions led to the Miles Davis comeback album, “The Man With The Horn” in 1981. Irving described the surreal nature of his involvement in the project.

“I had no idea, no plans to do anything close to playing with Miles Davis,” he said. “It was absolutely like being on top of the world.”

The collaborations would continue with Davis’ next album and a tour. His work would eventually put him into position as the musical director for the band. He and Miles would listen to recordings of performances together and he would apply the notes with the band at the next soundcheck.

“Miles didn’t do rehearsals and he didn’t do sound checks,” Irving said. “He needed someone to delegate.”

Stepping into that role has influenced Irving’s music to this day, where he still reviews rehearsal tapes to catch the nuances and make the needed course corrections he may miss during live performances.

Robert Irving III’s career would continue to expand as he became in demand as a producer. As health issues brought about what appeared to be the end of Miles Davis’ career, Irving dove into producing. He was surprised to receive a phone call from Davis’s manager inviting him back to join a recovering Davis on tour. Circumstances, both due to scheduling and musical divergence, forced Irving to decline.

“I guess this is it,” Irving said. “It was sort of a bittersweet thing.”

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They kept in touch, though did not work directly together again. Since the death of Miles Davis in 1991, Irving has worked to help honor and maintain his legacy through a number of tribute and alumni bands. He noted the current lack of attention placed on Davis in our culture and his hope to be a part of bringing it back to relevance. His band Generations is one way of accomplishing that goal. The group, which started as a Miles Davis tribute band, came out of the suggestion from Irving’s wife that he incorporate the kids he was teaching into a live band. They have since expanded into a vehicle for Irving’s own compositions.

“It sort of became our way of extending the Miles legacy,” he said. “It helps to bring that legacy forward.”

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Irving is working on bringing that legacy to listeners in a number of ways this year, which would have been Miles Davis’ 90th birthday and the 25th anniversary of his death. Locally, Generations, along with trumpet player Corey Wilkes, will be playing at the Lighthouse Jazz Festival in Michigan City on July 9th. He also continues his work with a number of other projects, including his record label, Sonic Portraits. Information on the festival can be found at and the rest of his work at



This piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.


Dan Deitrich- The Table

It was while protesting troubling legislation in the Michigan Senate, standing outside our local Senator’s office carrying signs of outcry and singing songs of unity, that I first met musician Dan Deitrich. At the after-protest discussion over coffee and through our continued communication on the Internet, I came to know Dan as a person committed to his music and his personal beliefs. Those aspects come together prominently in his latest release, an EP titled “The Table.”

“I’m a Christian and I work at a church,” Dan said. “We’re known for what we’re against because of the loudest, craziest voices in the media who claim to represent all of Christianity. I’m trying to dispel some of the negative stereotypes.”

“The Table” is Deitrich’s musical message to push back against attitudes that his faith requires that everyone to fit a certain mold. As he described it, the EP is meant to communicate that “everyone is invited to the table.” He was one of many in the crowd at the protest representing a common, but often unheard belief that Christianity is meant to unify, not divide. It is through his music he hopes to continue to spread that message.

The EP was recorded in Durango, Colorado with producer Michael Rossback. Deitrich was able to fund the project using the crowdfunding tool, Kickstarter. Fans contributed money before the EP was made and received benefits for doing so. In addition to helping him with his expenses, the process also provided him a method to actively engage his audience and get them invested in the project.

“It can be an awkward thing,” Dan said. “On one hand, you’re asking people for money. But the way I chose to look at it is that you’re inviting people into the process of making the album.”

During recording, his supporters received regular updates about the behind-the-scenes work. Some contributors were even invited to sing back-up vocals on the album.

“I really enjoyed the process,” he said. “It gets people involved, gets people excited about it.”

“The Table” was born out of a deliberate plan. With three children and a full time job, Dan would often find it difficult to balance creativity with every day life. He had a moment where he realized he had not written a song for an extended period of time, so he set the goal to write a specific number of songs. Once written, he declared his intent to himself and to the world to record them the following year. Even the choice to record in Colorado was deliberate, knowing he had to set the time aside and step away from daily life so he could complete the project.

He found collaboration, both in the interaction with his fans on Kickstarter and with Rossback during recording. He described the “magic” of the studio process and the benefit of working with another person while recording.

“My last album was just me in a studio late at night,” he said. “It was nice to have someone else in the studio who’s passionate about the songs and has ideas about the songs.”

The process created an excellent rock EP with a message universal to Christians and non-Christians alike.

“I’m thrilled with how it turned out,” he said.

Currently, Dan is out promoting “The Table” with local concerts, including a show as The Livery in Benton Harbor on July 14th. You can find information on more shows and and hear the EP in it’s entirety by visiting


These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.


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