Dallas producer and singer-songwriter Salim Nourallah will have nothing to prove when he debuts his latest album, Skeleton Closet, on July 19 at the Kessler. His reputation in the music community here couldn't be better, he's worked with an impressive number of our best and brightest, and his recordings are always interesting, melodic and well-thought-out.
So Nourallah has reached a point at which he can try different approaches and work at his own unpredictable pace.
The songs on Skeleton Closet, releasing wide on Aug.7 after his CD-release show this weekend, "were all written in the cracks of a very busy life," Nourallah told us recently. "There was no time to sit down and meticulously construct this record; all the songs were all pretty much done on the fly."
Despite the haphazard recording, though, there's a hazy, contemplative mood that defines Skeleton Closet. It stems from, among other things, Nourallah's early years growing up in West Texas. The local vet offered up some of his thoughts on a handful of the new tunes.
"I had a lot of fun on Skeleton Closet recklessly and playfully utilizing jagged sonic textures, as opposed to smooth or slick textures."
The reggae-influenced tune was written on the second anniversary of the death of local musician Carter Albrecht, who'd worked with Nourallah quite a bit in his home studio. It features a simple chorus marked by the words, "I miss you." "We're coming up fast on the eight-year anniversary of his death, which shows you how long this record took for me to complete and release," Nourallah says.
'Dead Man's Stare'
The poppy opener of the album is reminiscent both lyrically and sonically of Jeff Tweedy's more accessible Wilco tunes. As for what inspired it, "a close friend of mine who hadn't slept in nine days was trying to court a girl overseas," Nourallah says. "I told him, 'You'll never get the girl by torturing the girl' and wrote this song shortly after that."
This song's breezy, almost carefree delivery might catch some of Nourallah's fans by surprise, especially considering the lyrics' dark roots. "I took a trip to the West Texas mining town that was wiped out by a flu epidemic in 1918," Nourallah says. "Standing in the cemetery, I was overcome with how grateful I am to still be here." You can find a picture of the cemetery in his album's artwork.
"This and 'Crocodiles' represent a songwriting departure for me," Nourallah says. "I constructed the songs starting with drum loops taken from a 1970s Mattel Optigan. Then I'd write the bass lines and build the tracks from there. By taking myself away from writing on the acoustic guitar it was much easier for me to be ruder and more playful with the songs." But listen to the songs and you'll find that even the "rude" Nourallah is still pretty dang thoughtful.
'To The Desert'
"The striking spoken-word intro to the song continues the reflective Western vibe of Skeleton Closet. The song is "another one I wrote the music to first, then married it to a poem by the acclaimed poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz," Nourallah says. "He hails from my hometown, El Paso. Ben's words were exactly what I was looking for to conjure images of the desert and a restless longing for something that will never be."
Salim Nourallah celebrates his CD release at a show with Wreckless Eric on July 19 at 7 p.m. at the Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis St., Dallas. General admission is $18, with suite and table packages available. prekindle.com.