Photo credit: Casey Pinckard
Respected Dallas, TX-based singer/songwriter/producer/musician-of-many-trades Salim Nourallah is set to release a sprawling double-album, Somewhere South of Sane, on September 28, 2018 on Palo Santo Records.
Recorded and mixed mostly at Nourallah’s Pleasantry Lane Studio in Dallas, the self-produced album is an honest, often brutal introspective exercise that is relatable, heartbreaking, and amusing all at the same time. With the two-fisted melancholy of John Lennon and the elegant bluntness of Neil Finn, Somewhere South of Sane elevates Nourallah to the apex of his art, trading rock riffs for a classical guitar and assisted by the mind-bending instrumentation of guitarist Nick Earl, Nourallah’s bandmate in the Travoltas and a musician he calls a “total freak genius.” Nourallah further explains: “He has this ability to create worlds. Music is very visual to me, and I’ve always seen music in colors. Each of these songs has a sonic world, and Nick is responsible for that because he doesn’t play conventional guitar.”
The 21 tracks that comprise the four-sided Somewhere South of Sane are what the respected musician/producer admits is “the work of a functional crazy person.” He adds, “Spending a lifetime dedicated to any form of writing is a particular form of madness. Especially in the face of the unlikely event that you will ever see much or any monetary compensation.”
Nourallah, who is equal parts songwriter and producer, creates a shifting sonic landscape that could easily be mistaken for the work of multiple artists. From the gorgeous trance-inducing psychedelia of the opener “Boy in a Record Shop,” to the gut-wrenching self-realization in “I Missed My Own Life,” to the dueling Lennon/McCartney lyrical/melodic axis on display in “Tucumcari,” and the Nick Drake-esque “Moving Man,” Somewhere South of Sane traverses more artistic landscape in one album that some artists could in an entire career.
In the tradition of nakedly stark, confessional songwriters like John Lennon and Bob Dylan, Nourallah makes no bones about confronting his inner demons on Somewhere South of Sane. “When I was a kid, I was struck by the violence, greed and insanity of the ‘grownup’ world,” he says, “and the only way I found I could deal with it was music. I guess I’m still using the same, crude method of self-therapy.”
He continues: “The other interesting thing that struck me while working on this record is that songs are just photographs of feelings. There’s something to be said for singing a song, recording a song, and documenting it while you’re still in the moment of the feeling. Just like a photograph that happens instantly. Trying to circle back later and re-capture that feeling in a recording usually doesn’t work out.”
In advance of the album, Nourallah is releasing four pre-album “bundles” that will include tracks from the album as well as bonus material: previously recorded but unreleased songs or acoustic re-imaginings of tracks from past Nourallah albums. Each bundle (EP) will be accompanied by new online video content. Already released bundle one, North (which came out June 1, 2018), and already announced bundle two, West (out June 29, 2018), precede bundle three, East, and the final bundle; details for bundle four will be announced soon. The four EPs give fans a sneak peek into what is in store for them on Somewhere South of Sane.
As a solo artist, Nourallah has long mined the terrain between catchy and devastating. After gaining initial acclaim with the Denton, TX-based Nourallah Brothers, he went on to release six solo albums. His debut, Polaroid (2004), had Rolling Stone calling him “a singer-songwriter who can stop time.” 2015’s Skeleton Closet was cited by Dusted as a “masterful balance of the said and the unsaid… like a good novel, full of implications and shadowy contradictions and complexities.” As a producer, Nourallah boasts quite an impressive C.V. of production credits (Old 97’s, the Damnwells, Rhett Miller, the Deathray Davies). He’s also been involved in numerous other projects, including co-founding and running A & R for the Palo Santo music group. Over the years, his work on both sides of the sound booth has won him an armful of Dallas Observer music awards. That, and the consistent quality of Salim Nourallah’s music, have proven that some musicians actually can continue to stay relevant.