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Jim & Colleen Cleveland: Ballad Singers

How Colleen learned the alphabet from an old woodsmen's song. Listen: (Real 1:11)

Sara Cleveland singing the only known U.S. version of the British ballad Queen Jane.
Listen: (Real 7:17)

Jim remembers murder ballads and sings Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest. Listen: (Real 3:27)

Colleen sings The Last Farewell, with references to Adirondack towns. Listen: (Real 2:01)

How singing has always been part of life at home. Listen: (Real 1:45)

Colleen sings the ballad of lost love, Come All Ye Maidens. Listen: (Real 3:00)

Jim and Colleen Cleveland were the subjects of this January 17, 2000 profile jointly produced for radio by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York and North Country Public Radio. Listen (Real 5:31)

Robert James (Jim) Cleveland and his daughter Colleen of Brant Lake are descendants of Scottish and Irish settlers to their area. Their family's music and stories from the old country included ancient ballads or story-songs, for which the Scots are known. Sara Cleveland, Jim's mother and Colleen's grandmother, was a nationally-famous ballad singer of her generation.

After Sara's death in 1987, Jim and Colleen began singing the family songs in public. In addition to about 400 songs of the British Isles, the family repertoire includes songs from a variety of other popular sources. Jim, a retired woodsman and construction worker, learned many cowboy and outlaw songs from his mother and his uncle. Like their traditional counterparts in Scotland and Ireland, Jim and Colleen usually sing unaccompanied. Some of the family's very old ballads have not been collected from any other North American source.

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