Mass Shootings and Ted Cruz

Michael Weiskopf is not shy about addressing controversial topics in his music
Michael Weiskopf, who is known as the front man for the Complete Unknowns, his Dylan cover band, has a new CD of original songs backed up by South Fork musicians. Michael Fadyk

    With “Suffering Fools,” his second CD, the singer-songwriter Michael Weiskopf returns with a nine-song collection liberally sprinkled with meditations on topical issues, including mass shootings and a hero of the Tea Party movement.

    As with his first release, 2012’s “Insomnia,” Mr. Weiskopf turned to Cynthia Daniels and her MonkMusic Studios in East Hampton for recording and mixing. “She’s great to work with,” he said of Ms. Daniels, who co-produced both releases. “She gives you the right environment, encourages you to take the risks.”

    Mr. Weiskopf is backed by several South Fork musicians on “Suffering Fools,” as he was on “Insomnia,” including Randolph Hudson III, Klyph Black, Jim Lawler, Joe Delia, Jewlee Trudden, Sarah Greene, and Ms. Daniels. A resident of East Hampton, he also fronts the Complete Unknowns, a band that celebrates the music of Bob Dylan.

     Like Mr. Dylan, Mr. Weiskopf is not shy about addressing controversial topics in his music. In the nearly 10-minute “No Reason,” the words tumble out over a sparse acoustic guitar accompaniment. “My heart turns dark as the ages unfold,” he sings, “the tales of our heritage as it’s been sold by the tyrants of history, bloodthirsty and cold, from Caesar to Pol Pot the genocide road, and the new ones I’ve witnessed as I grow old, competing with their actions. . . . I’m not buying some false distraction.”

    On “Suffering Fools,” the artist said, “I tried to string together a consistent theme throughout the work,” as he did on his previous album. “I think my attempt is to paint a picture. It’s deliberate that there are no obvious songs about the routine heartbreak we all go through.” Such territory, he observed, has been thoroughly mined elsewhere. “I wanted to comment on what I consider to be larger issues. This kind of category doesn’t get covered as routinely as it once did.”

    On “Guns Don’t Kill,” Mr. Weiskopf seethes at the mass shootings that all too often occur in the United States. He said the song was written a few days after the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. “The unfortunate thing about the song is it’s always timely,” he said, mentioning last week’s mass shooting at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. Thirteen people were killed and 30 wounded at the same base in 2009. Lamenting “the madness in which the gun lobby intimidates politicians” and “how easily people have access to weapons,” Mr. Weiskopf said, “I tried to write from inside the mind of someone who would commit something like that.” And yet, he said, “Ranting about gun control doesn’t seem to do anything at all.”

    “Thank You, Canada (the Ted Cruz song)” is a playful look at the senator from Texas and Tea Party hero. While many of Mr. Cruz’s supporters continue to question President Obama’s citizenship, the senator is himself foreign-born. “I thought about Canada, what an interesting place it is, all these great people,” Mr. Weiskopf said. “And then there’s Ted Cruz and Justin Bieber. I was trying to laugh at it: Okay, we see this guy for what he is. I needed to express it the way I can express it without getting too emotional about it.”

    “The work has to speak for itself,” he continued. “You make these songs, you put them out, you think you have something to say, and if it resonates with a handful of people, that’s a good thing.”

    “Suffering Fools” is available at Innersleeve Records and Crossroads Music in Amagansett, and online at the iTunes store, Amazon, and CD Baby. The Complete Unknowns will play at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on Friday, April 18, at 8 p.m., and at the Bob Dylan 73rd Birthday Bash at the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in New York on May 26.