So... travelling minstels, griots, jesters, bards? Are these not all professional entertainers of years gone by? What's with this myth of folk traditions always being about the veneration of the amateur?
It's all well and good to have anyone participating in singarounds, private gatherings, stuff taking place in the home, etc etc. And that's part of the folk tradition (though not always about folk music - private singing within my family was never about traditional song). These informal gatherings are for whoever feels like participating: ability, skill, talent, professionalism etc doesn't come into it. Yes, we'll tolerate pissed up Uncle Fred singing a rubbish song out of tune and getting the words wrong and going on for way too long... after all, he's family...
Professional singers of traditiional song, however, are a different matter entirely. They are taking your money to do a job, and as such certain standards apply - just the same as if they were plumbers or social workers or hairdressers or computer programmers. This doesn't make them 'pop' - it makes them good at their job. And what the hell is 'pop' about a decent standard of musicianship? Does this expectation around professional standards somehow 'taint' folk music? Do you really want badly played, badly sung, badly recorded folk records? Do you really want to keep it small and minority and obscure, or do you want to be able to say to your friends, 'listen to this music I love. It really is something special'?
And a recording may be a moment frozen in time, but the person making the recording better be putting all of their heart and soul into making it special if they're expecting me to part with £12.00 for it: regardless of the programming policies of US radio stations. I think I have every right to expect that. If they're not prepared to put in the effort, frankly, they're in the wrong job.
This is a bit of a rant, I know, but I'd love to get rid of all that is smug and insular and deeply unnappealing about folk music.