Somewhere South of Sane is the seventh solo album from artist, producer, Palo Santo Records co-founder, and Dallas indie music godfather Salim Nourallah. A sprawling double album (21 tracks), this is Nourallah’s boldest work yet: an album that explores the desolation of peace in America (“Relief”), the implosion of a marriage (“A Betrayal”), and madness of a life lived among the record stacks (“Boy in a Record Shop”). The 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.
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 is equal parts songwriter and producer, creating 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 might in an entire career.
As a solo artist, Nourallah has long mined the terrain between catchy and devastating. Rolling Stone called him “a singer-songwriter who can stop time.” His previous six albums Polaroid (2004), Beautiful Noise (2005), Snowing in My Heart (2007), Constellation (2009), Hit Parade (2012), and Skeleton Closet (2015) show what might happen if the fifth Beatle turned out to be an Arab-American kid raised in 1970s El Paso. As a producer, Nourallah has worked notably with the Old 97’s, Rhett Miller, the Deathray Davies, and the Damnwells. His work on either side of the sound booth has won an armful of Dallas Observer music awards and proven that some musicians actually do get better with age.
Somewhere South of Sane is out September 28, 2018.