Combining Irish, Scottish, and Manx traditions with virtuoso musicianship, Glasgow-based instrumental Celtic supergroup Ímar sounded fresh simply by going back to basics on their 2017 debut album Afterlight.
Named after the ninth century Viking king who once ruled a large part of Ireland and Scotland, the band's origins go back to their shared apprenticeships with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the Irish traditional music association that tutors young artists and organizes the annual fleadh (competition) circuit. Ryan Murphy (uilleann pipes, flute, whistles) hailed from Cork, Ireland; Tomás Callister (fiddle) and Adam Rhodes (bouzouki) from the Isle of Man; Adam Brown (bodhrán) from Suffolk, England; and Mohsen Amini (concertina) from Glasgow. The five acquaintances grew up playing on the Glasgow session circuit and would all go on to become members of some of the biggest bands on the Scottish folk scene, including Mànran, Rura, and Talisk. Between them they also won numerous prizes: eight all-Britain and nine all-Ireland trophies, two wins at the prestigious Oireachtas na Gaeilge (Murphy), and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year (Amini). From the moment they got together to play in 2015, they clicked immediately, realizing they were onto something special. They played predominantly Irish repertoire, but also dug deep into shared Gaelic heritage, incorporating Manx and Scottish tunes as well. In early 2016 they uploaded two demo tracks, "Firebird" and "L'Air Mignonne," which drew immediate attention from the folk press, who praised the band's impeccable musicianship and lightning-fast playing. Those tracks appeared on their 2017 self-released debut album Afterlight, alongside other traditional and self-penned tunes. Their second album, Avalanche, followed in 2018. ~ John D. Buchanan