Golden light fills a beautiful pub garden on a lazy summer’s evening in late August. Flowers of all colours adorn the edges of the seating area whilst families and friends share tales of merriment and laugh amongst themselves without a single care in the world for anything that may exist outside of their immediate surroundings. This is a lovely image, and one that is impossible not to picture upon listening to the latest offering from Celtic five-piece Ímar. Indeed, it is not unlikely that the cause for such positivity and joy at the pub, is the fact that Ímar are the band playing the evening away.
It must be said, however, that Ímar are very far from your average pub band; they comprise five folk musicians at the very peak of their ability, who between them have a healthy smattering BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and a plethora of All-Britain/All-Ireland titles as well. The new album, entitled Awakening, is their third full-length release, and much like their previous works is an exquisite showcase of their unbridled virtuosic talent.
Awakening comes five years after their previous release, and there is no better time to publish their latest work, as they have recently enjoyed a run of success over on their social media pages; garnering over 300,000 plays on TikTok alone. It is so painfully rare to see traditional folk artists succeed online in this way, and few deserve such success more than Ímar.
The album is shamelessly traditional in its musicality, and kicks off with the aptly-named Bangers, a big, upbeat rollercoaster-ride of a song which features effortless key and tempo changes. Not all the songs are so intense, with Waterhorse, Eioghann’s and Imagine a World providing a gorgeous, more downtempo feel; anyone who was up dancing on the tables is given time to rest. The final track, The Tree of Life, has a wonderfully uplifting and rousing feel to it, and provides the perfect set-closer for the songs that come before it.
Awakening is an outrageous showcase of the highest-tier of musicianship and performance. Traditional music like this has had pubs bouncing for centuries, and the take-away from anyone who has been to a traditional performance is always the unparalleled positivity that surges through the audience. Ímar have managed to capture that spirit, bottle it up, and serve it on-demand whenever someone might need it. A truly remarkable achievement in music-making.