Arkansas native Jeh Sea Wells first gut-punched us with his incredibly raw, raspy “Summer.” There’s something soothing about getting away from pristine, polished production in favor of Wells’ acoustic songwriting. He needs little more than a guitar and those beautifully hoarse pipes to get a listener’s attention. Exhibit B: “Xmas ’97.”
The track is accompanied by a short line taken from the song’s lyrics: “we were broke, but we had love then.” There were similar sentiments in “Summer,” but “Xmas ’97” shows a very different Jeh Sea Wells. The vocal vulnerability that made his debut so raw is still there, but it’s used for a different emotional purpose. “Xmas ’97” is less lamentation, more confident nostalgia.
Wells’ guitar is pulled back and warmer on this track—at least until he turns up to 11 with a maniacal solo in the final third. Jeh Sea accompanies himself on drums this time around, and the addition gives “Xmas ’97” the forward momentum it needs to get as big as it does. This track will draw more inevitable comparisons to Kurt Cobain, but this time it’s for his songwriting similarities, not just the voice.