This is to Al, mainly.
There is no direct correlation between talent and success - there never has been in any field, musical or otherwise.
It's about having sufficient talent to deliver something people will value, and then being in the right place at the right time.
Yes, you can manoeuvre yourself into somewhere you think might be the right place at the right time, and that's absolutely part of the deal - but it doesn't guarantee success - even if you win the lottery and spend it all advertising in Mojo.
You have to be good enough in the first place, AND in the final analysis. You can fluke a break as I did when a third party sent Waterman our demo and he loved it, but if you can't follow that up (my band imploded with one guy leaving to be a careers officer - no, really he did - one overdose, and one hospitalised with that thing Dennis Potter had from the stress) the thing soon fizzles out.
I know scores of musicians in many fields who are 'better' than others more 'successful.' Some of the 'successful' ones have suffered badly, some of the 'better' ones are much happier. There is no justice - but if there was, who would decide the merits of either or each? It's impossible.
Some great players are useless at organising themselves and the breaks that do come along slip through their fingers. Some great organisers are barely good enough players but get away with it because they know know how to sharp the cards (like me, perhaps).
But the bottom line is this:
All Alan's 'folkerati' mentioned in this thread ARE good enough. They HAVE paid their dues. (Arts centre gigs are NOT cushy - they can be exceeding grim and hard work and next time I see you I'll explain why). They HAVE done their best to put themselves in the right place at the right time - often at considerable personal and financial cost. And they HAVE made the best of the breaks that did come their way, which usually means taking big risks and a hell of a lot of hard work. And they're NOT making a fortune - minimum wage or slightly better, once you even it all out.
But this is what matters: They've put themselves in the firing line of mainstream public opinion - and have emerged respected and admired by large numbers of people - many of whom are no saps, musically or otherwise (and many are extremely knowledgeable - not that that's a prerequisite for an opinion)
No-one said we had an equal opportunities scheme in the folk world, and we don't (outside of floor singing in some clubs, perhaps). But we do have a meritocracy. Yes, a few duds (like me, perhaps) manage to fool some of the people some of the time, but you don't get on Later doing that.