In stage directions, the term a larum refers to a general chaos created offstage — perfectly fitting, then, that Royal Shakespearean Company actor Johnny Flynn snagged the phrase to encapsulate the swinging, thumping folk ruckus being kicked up on the 13 acoustic stomps contained here. Backed by the clatteringly exuberant, Pogues-like tradition-bashers of the Sussex Wit, the dashing young Brit often sings in the lingua franca of olde English balladry — there are funerals, priests, and sailors, for starters — but the presentation is thoroughly modern, having jostled up the hectic poetry with mad tumbles of drums, violins, and mandolins.
Much of A Larum's fire is drawn from the curious juxtaposition of Flynn's waggish wordplay and the seen-it-all, sonorous voice from which it comes a-streaming. "The Box" — with its jaunty chorus of "Sweep my mess away / Leave my body, leave my bones" — slyly slips the specter of death into a merry bounce of scraping fiddles and drunken trumpets. "Eyeless in Holloway" pulls off a similar coup, whisking away images of funeral pyres and disease amid a rousing rattle of martial drums, clanging banjo, and unison vocals. Breathing new life into centuries-old song forms, Flynn and his fellow rabble-rousers manage to sound like reverent folkies and punk-indebted street buskers at the same time.
Sun/28, 7:30 p.m., $12
Café Du Nord
2170 Market, SF