This album is an essay in folk music and in the way in which musical influence moved around the old British Empire. It also puts forward a view of what folk music is. The songs range from 'Froggie Went A-Courtin', a song that came down both black and white musical traditions in America but dates back in England to at least the 1500s, to 'Tomorrow Night', perhaps best known as an Elvis song. Indigenous white American ballads like 'Little Maggie' and 'Frankie and Albert' are put along side American versions of old English and English Travellers' songs like 'The Gypsy Laddie', recorded under the Ameican name 'Black Jack Davey.' Timeless acoustic blues songs like 'Sittin on Top of the World' and 'Step it Up and Go' are put next to the historically motivated Irish and Australian folk songs 'Arthur McBride' and 'Jim Jones'.
These are songs Dylan has been singing for a long time: there is a very Woody Guthrie inspired version of 'Black Jack Davey' that Dylan recorded under the title 'Gypsy Davey' in 1960 - 61. I don't know anyone, singer, performer, critic or scholar, who understands folk music as authentically or with as little prejudice as Bob Dylan, so I think its worth hearing what he has to say about it.