"It got started with Appalachian set, though I renumbered [that] later as book three."
He added that his daughter, Ann, encouraged him to explore those songs. She liked the folk tunes of Appalachia.
"She's a Broadway singer," Crumb said. "And she's interested in jazz and folk songs."
He began to write, and the project took on a life of it's own.
With the American Songbooks, Crumb has drawn from the rich musical heritage of the nation, everything from hymns and cowboy songs to music and poems from the Indian nations.
"I couldn't call it the American Songbook without including music from the aboriginal people of America. Some of those poems are quite beautiful. I included them when I could."
In later volumes, Crumb said he'd moved into the 20th Century, using protest songs by Pete Seeger and even a song by Bob Dylan.
"The project just kept growing," he said.
Currently, Crumb said he's working on some pieces by Spanish poet and dramatist Frederico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936).
Unfortunately, Crumb said he wouldn't be coming to see the performances in West Virginia but thinks the music will speak for itself. He said it's not that he's sick so much as just sick of traveling, which at his age has lost its appeal.
"I don't really like flying anymore," he said. "I thought I'd just stay home this time."
"Voices from The Heartland" will be performed 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the WVU Creative Arts Center in Morgantown and 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at WVU Parkersburg. Admission is free for both performances.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.