Josephine Mulvenna,
Spirit of the Song
(Chart, 2004)

Spirit of the Song features some of Ireland's greatest standards sung by the voice of an angel. Josephine Mulvenna takes songs that we know, love and at times might be quite tired of and transforms them.

To her great credit, the transformation is not with lush arrangements or semi-rock beats. This young lady takes the songs back to the drawing room, the wedding party and the real old-fashioned pub with simple arrangements and minimal backing. The one thing she adds to that mix is a singing voice much better than most performers in such settings.

It is a pure joy to hear our musical heritage being rescued in this way.

She opens with that standard of Irish standards, "Danny Boy." From there she zig-zags through a repertoire that will delight older listeners and reveal the true beauty and depth of a number of songs that we have consigned to the wastebasket due to too many murderous renditions.

Whether we call it "Nora" or "Maggie," the song used by Sean O'Casey in one of his plays, although not written by the great man, is one of our loveliest love songs -- and Josephine does it justice.

Among the other songs featured here are "Old Bog Road," "Red is the Rose" and "Castle of Dromore." The latter is a beautiful song that I had not heard in years -- and that is the bonus of this CD, the resurrection of the neglected.

Neatly fitting into that category are two of my personal favourites on the album. "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" is a beautiful song, sung with sensitivity and a gorgeous guitar backing. In this year of Cork as European City of Culture, it is great to hear another old standard from the rebel county, "Cottage by the Lee."

Josephine hails from Belfast and you would not mistake this as you listen to her singing. That soft Ulster accent and intonation is evident in her rendition and adds that little sliver of reality and human contact.

Not only does this lady give a mighty performance on CD, she also uses her talent to help the less fortunate and organises a regular concert for the Irish Emigrant Homeless, drawing in the best of Irish talent to perform for free to assist our less successful travellers to foreign lands. (The 2005 event is in Dublin on Feb. 20; for information visit

The CD package contains a beautiful booklet of lyrics plus a nice piece of social history concerning the emigrants.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 29 January 2005