The Leipzig Sessions: Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh, ReviewYou, Nov. 2011

For many people, the words folk music conjures up an array of thoughts not altogether pleasing. Visions of the sundry characters from Christopher Guest’s great film, A Mighty Wind, come to mind alongside echoes of Peter, Paul, and Mary gentling serenading near comatose crowds with “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Clearly not the stuff that legends are made of.
Yet, thankfully, the genre of folk music reaches deeper than what much of contemporary culture typically thinks of, stretching not only into acoustic singer/songwriter fare but also into the roots of America and abroad. This is the brand of folk that Irish-based duo Anna Falkenau and Ivan J. Murray bring to bear and, on The Leipzig Sessions, they’re doing it as good as any.
The tandem has been performing together since 2009, combining Falkenau’s keen instrumental chops with Murray’s songwriting into a harmonious blend of Irish and American influenced jams. Touring Europe as well as the U.S.A., the band has played at multiple venues and festivals as well. And with this debut album, the band is set to add yet one more notch to their impressive resume.
The Leipzig Sessions kicks off with a Murray original, “Wake Up the Neighbors,” and sets the bar high early, with soulful fiddle from Falkenau and poignant, pointed lyrics delivered with a pleasantly rough vocal by Murray. It instantly makes you want to hear more and, that’s good, because these guys have nine more tracks to deliver and you’ll want to hear each and every one.
The remainder of the record finds the artists bouncing from instrumental jams, both original and covers, to vocally infused tracks that let Murray’s songwriting lead the way. “Polly Put the Kettle On/Reel Le Blanc/Ashe Road” is a fun, frolicking fiddle medley, with Falkenau taking the lead and Murray ably holding rhythm while Murray’s “Riposte” is classic, indie-inspired singer/songwriter art. Dark, haunting vocals that are just waiting for Jack White to guest on and moody guitar set the tone here and make this a definite must listen.
“Song For Little Man” keeps the vocals running strong but with a lighter vibe this time out, Falkenau’s fiddle more sparse and tastefully woven in while Murray’s vocal pleads throughout. Falkenau gets songwriting credits with the next track, “The Leipzig Jigs No. 1 & 2,” and delivers nicely, the song definitely drawing the toes to tapping and being performed with solid virtuosity and passion. “Monroe’s Farewell to Dark Hollow – 28th of January” follows that strongly and is one of the more energetic and enjoyable of the instrumental tracks, the fiddle and guitar playing off one another with playful abandon.
Then comes what is perhaps the album’s best track with “In The Sun.” Empowered with subtle, perfectly played guitar and spiritually charged lyrics from American songwriter Joseph Arthur, Murray delivers his vocals with precision and hits home every time. It’s surely the one you don’t want to miss on this outing.
The remaining tracks tie up the loose ends with ease. Another Murray original, “Western Plains,” is a wonderfully old soul feeling tune, with a weepy lyric and a sense of space all around while “House on the Hill/The Leading Role” is another inspired medley of fiddle tunes. The album caps off with Falkenau’s “Ivan’s Waltz,” which is a beautifully romantic closing to this stellar recording.
For those who claim to dislike folk music, they clearly haven’t heard the strains of Murray and Falkenau. Stringing together stunning arrangements in the style of Chris Thile, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and others, while delivering insightful lyrics and spot on performances, this Irish duo stands poised to make a splash. Do yourself a favor and pick up The Leipzig Sessions; you won’t be sorry you did.
Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh
Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)


Review of The Leipzig Sessions:(in Imbolc 2011 Celtic Beat):

This CD  from Anna Falkenau and Ivan Murray has both a formality and a spontaniety working for it simultaneously. Because of that it has a true session feeling for a session with the best. The fact that Liz Carroll lends her presence here on this CD is also a statement as to the quality.

The team of Falkenau/Murray have a different kind of poetry on another plane also working within the aforementioned context. Both referencing tradition and personal worlds. Opening with a wonderful lyrical fiddle from Anna Falkenau to the pop singing of Ivan Murray in “Wake up the Neighbours.” this sets the tone for the CD.

Ivan Murray’s singing revolves around the personal, such as “Song for Little Man.” about the pain of the estranged parent in a bitter breakup which still carries a message of love to the child caught in the middle. “Western Plains” captures well the myth of the America of the West in the minds of many Europeans. Here Ivan Murray is archetypical rather than personal. This song brings to mind a speech by President Ronald Reagan which to my recollection is now thirty years old,and innumerable “Spaghetti Westerns.” Myths and legends die hard. Throughout this CD on the vocals Ivan Murray’s voice is haunting.

Anna Falkenau’s fiddling is traditional, balanced and ever so powerful in the right context.

This is true of “The Leipzig Jigs” and of my two favorites on this CD, “Monroe’s Farewell to Dark Hollow”/”28th of January” and “House On The Hill.” The fiddling  on the first mentioned is absolutely wonderful-bold and brave and a delight to listen to. On the second mentioned is where Joe Thoma and Liz Carroll come in. The strengths of Anna Falkenau’s musicianship lie exactly where they should be, in her own skill and artistry, rather than outside factors. This live is trad-old time in the absolute best sense of the term. Her art grows upon you rather than in the quick flash in the pan.

This duo play upon their contrasts which give color and vibrancy to their performance. These artists really are well described in terms of visual art…I hope you can pick up the CD “The Leipzig Sessions” or hear them soon.


Review in The Irish Music Magazine  of The Leipzig Sessions (November 2011)

The pairing of traditional fiddle player Anna Falkenau with the singer/ songwriter/guitarist Ivan Murray has been a bit of an underground phenomena in recent times. Having toured in Ireland, the US and on the European mainland, they landed a gig at the Electric Picnic this Autumn and it seems the barometer of their fame is on the rise. Their ability to blend the Irish tradition with some rootsy Americana and well-crafted original compositions has made folks stop and listen. Now the world can judge just how good they are with this debut album.

First track, Wake Up The Neighbours, a one sided dialogue reflecting on our global love affairs is sung in a dry high pitched voice with the fiddle sympathetically soaring through the work. The next track is a raw edge fiddle tune Polly Put the Kettle On standing somewhere between Kentucky and Kanturk it keeps you guessing when will it might go completely modal. For me the tone could be a little darker on the lower register as Falkenau attacks the thick strings to dramatic effect. Those two pieces set the tone for the rest of the album, a balance between modern song writing and rooted dance music.

The duo is billed as Contemporary Folk with an Irish sensibility, the latter stemming mostly from Falkenau’s fiddle. She is a member of Galway’s Rye and a one time component of Liz Doherty’s Fiddlesticks. Her traditional provenance is persuasive.

The contemporary folk world is a jungle of all too similar sounding singer songwriters. In the Leipzig Sessions Murray and Falkenau have hit on a formula to bring the strange and wonderful to what is often a tired and jaded genre. Catch them live when you can, and give the album a listen, they even have samples on their Myspace page to whet your appetite.

Seán Laffey


Review of Concert at CafeLebensART Greiz, December 2011 by Journalist Karsten Schaarschmidt

Besinnung auf die Wurzeln des Irish Folk

Deutsch-irisches Duo Anna Falkenau und Ivan Murray musiziert im Café LebensART
Greiz. Ihre Musik gleicht der Besinnung auf die Wurzeln des Irish Folk. Ohne Schnickschnack, dafür melodiegetragen und reich an Emotionen und Rhythmen präsentieren sich die Titel, die Fiddle-Spielerin Anna Falkenau und der Gitarrist und Sänger Ivan Murray ihrem Publikum kredenzen. Am Mittwoch gastierte das deutsch-irische Duo im Greizer Café LebensART und ließ die Gäste teilhaben an einem von melancholisch bis temperamentvoll reichenden Liederabend.

Die gebürtige Leipzigerin Anna Falkenau hat schon vor einigen Jahren Deutschland den Rücken gekehrt und lebt als Musikerin mit ihrem Partner Ivan Murray im irischen Galway, einem der Zentren der Irish-Folk-Music auf der „grünen Insel“. Und dort hat sie sich einen guten Leumund erspielt, die Kritik feiert ihr Geigenspiel als „mutig, kühn und Ohrenfreude“. Tatsächlich lebt ihre Musik, ist einmal einfühlsam und dann wieder druckvoll, ganz so als sei ihr der traditionelle Irish Folk schon in die Wiege gelegt worden. Mit Ivan Murray bildet sie eine klangvolle Einheit, kein gegenseitiges musikalisches Auflauern, sondern gleichberechtigtes, einander befruchtendes Miteinander prägen ihr Spiel. Murray selbst definiert die Songs über ausdrucksstarke Akkorde und einen sensiblen Anschlag, und seine helle und doch raue Stimme verleiht den Liedern Charakter und Tiefe.

Das Repertoire der beiden Musiker reicht von überlieferten irischen Folksongs über Interpretationen von Titeln von Neil Young oder Peggy Seeger, der Halbschwester des US-Protestsängers Pete Seeger, bis hin zu eigenen, anspruchsvollen und ansprechenden Kompositionen. Die Titel erzählen vom Schicksal der Kohleminenarbeiter, von durchzechten Nächten oder der Liebe. Bei allem jedoch steht das Ursprüngliche, die Kraft der Melodie im Mittelpunkt – ganz besonders bei den lebhaften, instrumentalen Jigs und Reels, die das Duo zu Gehör brachte. Kurzum, der Abend vereinte Verträumtes, Mitreißendes und Nachdenkliches, virtuos von Anna Falkenau und Ivan Murray in ihrer Musik verpackt.

Greiz, Donnerstag, 22. Dezember 2011
Karsten Schaarschmidt
Freier Wort- und Bildjournalist
Mitglied im Deutschen Journalisten-Verband – Landesverband Thüringen
Bruno-Bergner-Straße 1 – 07973 Greiz/Thüringen
Telefon: 03661-673185 – Mobiltelefon: 0172-5416132 – Fax: 03661-2808

Review (German) of a live gig in Gelnhausen’s Schebbe Siebder by Murray & Falkenau:


Interview with Connaugh Tribune’s Jimmy McDonnell, ahead of a gig at The Crane for The Galway Sessions Festival