Cornbread Wallace – Drivin’ Like Hell

 Cornbread Wallace – Drivin’ Like Hell

Cornbread Wallace – Drivin’ Like Hell – EP Review

When you’ve been doin’ this music thang as long as I have been, you definitely know what to expect when you come across a name like Cornbread Wallace on your playlist.  I ain’t claiming to be some kind of savant or anything…take the Pepsi challenge for yourself folks – shut your eyes real, real tight and just try to imagine what you think the music of an artist going by the name of Cornbread Wallace is gonna sound like, and I can promise ya that 95% of you probably got it bang on before you heard a single note.

Did you guess Country?  Did you guess Americana?  A hybrid of both?  Definitely both though, right?  Not Rap eh?  Not Metal either?  Interesting!  Like I’ve been getting at…this mystery wasn’t too hard to solve, but congrats on figuring it out.  Sometimes things really are as they seem and not as overcomplicated as we tend to wanna make stuff.

So yes…Americana/Country…little Rock and a little Pop thrown in as is the case with the modern-day versions of either of those main genres…and voila – Cornbread Wallace has arrived on the scene.  Looks like he’s just been starting things up this year…couple singles released earlier in 2023, and now his debut EP Drivin’ Like Hell is out there for y’all to enjoy.  It’s a decent set of six, I’ll tell ya that up front.  I think like any artist or band at the earliest part of their career, you can hear some room for the music to evolve beyond what we hear right now, but the potential is there, the skills are too – he’s on the right path.  As “Stay With Me” started up, I felt a bit mixed about it.  On the one hand, his vocal performance is good, the musicianship is stellar, and the backing vocals are nothing short of remarkable…so clearly the right pieces are in place.  On the other hand, I’m not gonna be able to argue that good ol’ Cornbread is exactly recreating the wheel with a song like “Stay With Me,” and I can certainly recognize he’s got some real work to do in order to separate himself from the rest of what’s out there.  It’s like the old adage goes though – you gotta learn to walk before you can run…and there’s never any shame in that.  “Stay With Me” is a complete tune, I’ll give him that – and I think that he’s got himself some stellar highlights in the way he sings this opener that he can definitely be proud of too.  I do not know who it is that is doing the backing vocals for Wallace, but they proved to be a real tough element to outshine in every track they showed up on.  Ain’t a bad thing though…the harmonies you hear are still working with the strengths of Cornbread’s songwriting at the end of the day…which speaks volumes about his craft.  Do I think just about any other track on this record would have potentially made for a better gateway into the Drivin’ Like Hell EP?  Yes.  Yes indeed I do.  But patience folks…we’re all perpetual students of the game at the end of the day…the layout of a record is something that comes in later down the road.

Case in-point though, “I Love You” probably would have been a great way to start things off.  There’s a beautifully lighthearted energy and melody at the core of this tune, and it’s just straight-up pleasant to listen to, full stop.  Spoiler alert – it’s a love song!  Like I was saying earlier – we don’t NEED to overcomplicate everything we do…some things are what they are – and I appreciate that Cornbread didn’t try to make “I Love You” anything over the top.  Instead, he’s preserved the sweetness of this tune by giving it a very humble vibe…and I feel like a whole bunch of people out there will appreciate that.  If anything, I think he might have out-written himself from verse to chorus…as in, I think the main strengths of this song are actually in the verses, and not in the chorus where you’d expect to find the hooks that keep us coming back.  It’s close…don’t get me wrong, I ain’t saying that the chorus is without hooks, it has’em, just not as strong as the ones in the verses, in my opinion.  I think what we all really have to acknowledge in assessing this song though, is that the reasons why “I Love You” hits the homerun that it does is largely because it’s pretty much a perfect duet.  As I was explaining before, whoever it is that Cornbread’s got singing with him deserves a serious award…she’s incredible.  I like what I’m hearing from Wallace too, but I’m in love with the vocals he’s got surrounding him as well.  Together on “I Love You,” they nailed this tale of trying to find the words to express how we feel, and I don’t think one half could have accomplished it as well as they have without the other involved, you feel me?  A theme like this needed both voices, so that was a wise choice on Cornbread’s part to add two in.

There are some SCORCHIN’ HOT aspects of “Drivin’ Like Hell” that I sure hope people out there are hearing.  It’s gonna be VERY easy to get lost in the main rhythm and groove of this track, which Cornbread could have rolled out of bed and fell onto – but everything surrounding that, is straight-up amazing.  Don’t get me wrong, the hooks are undeniable – I’m just sayin’ that there’s not a whole lot to’em at the end of the day…Cornbread’s actually done a lot with a little when it comes right down to it, but give the man some serious credit – it’s the fact this cut is played & sung with such bold conviction that it works.  I think in many ways it’s pretty much ridiculously impressive if I’m being honest with ya.  Every single one of us should have our ears on the guitar, and that SHOULD be the real star of this show – and yet, I can promise ya that sadly half the folks out there listening aren’t even going to realize such spectacular musicianship is even included onto “Drivin’ Like Hell,” because the most accessible hooks are guaranteed to snag the majority of the people’s attention.  So in a way, Cornbread’s put in ten times the effort required to make “Drivin’ Like Hell” have the potential it has to be a massive hit, but my ears are certainly grateful for the work he’s put into this tune.  I think it would have been extremely easy and very, very tempting to rely solely on the main rhythm & groove and call it a day…but it’s the fact that he continued to explore this song & see what else it could do that fills me with confidence about his future to follow.  His attention to detail on a track like “Drivin’ Like Hell” proves that he’s in this for the long haul, and not only makin’ music that sounds good, but that he’ll WANT to play as well.  Dude can sing like the dickens too y’all…his most intense moments on this title-track will reveal a voice that is a force to be reckoned with.  Adding a Rock edge to his sound absolutely pays off for him on “Drivin’ Like Hell.”

As I spun my way through this EP for the first time however, it was actually “Shine” that sold me the most…and I’d probably consider this track for a single/video down the line somewhere too.  I mean, the obvious single is gonna be the title-track on this record, but “Shine” is a song that offers something significantly special that people will really love for completely different reasons.  That sound of genuine sincerity and sweetness…the humble superstar that Cornbread could go on to be, is threaded right into the DNA of this song.  Listen to the way he bursts into the chorus of this one will ya?  Because the key to his success is right there on display if you ask me.  When the music started on “Shine,” I immediately got that chill down my spine that tells me I’m in for something stellar…and then as the verses started up and he was singing, I thought to myself, sure…that’s alright.  He’s got the right melody, he’s got the right pace and ideas and all that…but admittedly, I was still looking for a little more oomph and conviction to go along with it.  Once you get to the chorus, you realize the man was just wisely conserving his energy, because “Shine” goes on to make serious demands from the microphone, and Cornbread went on to nail it.  A song that’s all about embracing your moment in time and giving it everything you’ve got, it was a pure joy to listen to Wallace rise to the occasion and deliver one of his strongest vocal performances in the main hooks of the chorus of “Shine.”  If I’m being truthful with ya, I still think there’s room for a bit more…something…in “Shine” than we currently get, but I really do love what I’m hearing.  It’s 2:31 in length, and to create the irresistible hooks & energy that Wallace has found in this song is by no means any easy task…but I’m listening to things like the piano part that could have more of a presence, backing vocals that could come out into the open a little more as well…all things he’s giving us already, but we want a bit more of – like the guitar solo towards the end.  Essentially I think there’s a four minute version of “Shine” out there in the ether somewhere that needs to appear on a record, or at least when he’s playing live from the stage.  Ain’t nothing wrong with wanting MORE of a great thing, and that’s what will likely happen when you listen to this tune, just like it did for me.  Regardless, it’s still one of my absolute favorites on this debut EP, and I’d be completely surprised if you all didn’t feel the exact same.

You stumble onto a track like “Shine” and you know that whatever comes next is gonna have a very hard time reaching that same level of greatness.  Like I said at the start of this review, it ain’t my first rodeo – so I know to temper my expectations.  Cornbread just knocked it outta the park over the course of the previous three tunes really, and that eventual ebb & flow of a record comes for us all.  He did pretty well with “Keep Trying,” which is to say he’s filled that space about as good as it could have been.  On a song that’s all about trying to battle back every obstacle we face in life & love, and “trying not to drown” in his sorrows – I think people will appreciate how relatable his thoughts & emotions are on this particular tune.  The line of “trying to find the light” is probably worth the price of admission here on its own – I think that’s another extraordinary highlight of Cornbread’s vocals without a doubt…I love hearing him sing that line, every single time.  I don’t love that he’s gone and rhymed “light” with “sunlight” just shortly afterwards, but it didn’t take away how awe-inspiring the main hook of “Keep Trying” really is.  And sometimes that’s all we need to make a song stand out.  I like what I hear in the rest well enough, but it’s the “trying to find the light” line that pushes this whole song from good to great and gives it a genuine chance of being noticed.  A bit off topic, but I used to have a teacher in high school that would ask us to pronounce “water” over and over, until we realized most of us pronounced it like “wadder” instead of enunciating that T the way it’s written.  Cornbread’s doin’ that here on “Keep Trying,” but I won’t hold it against him.  Great sounds in the drums of this song, and the backing vocals become an essential part of the latter half of this song, providing a beautifully warm glow in the harmonies for ya.

“Wedding Day” is one of those tough tunes to review.  On the one hand, there are definitely hooks in this song that are undoubtedly appealing…and on the other hand, you’ve got a song that still needs a bit more refining to reach its full potential.  Why it becomes a tough song to review is because you know that it comes from a very real place, written with factual details.  So the key here, is to find that compromise between saying what you wanna say without making things awkward in the cadence of the words or the flow of the melody…and I’d be the first to tell ya that’s not always easy, but I know an artist like Cornbread Wallace has got the right magic to make that happen.  As it stands, “Wedding Day” has a few too many words in a couple lines, not quite enough in others, and it keeps the natural ease of the fluidity a bit more staggered than it probably should be, but again, that’s because Cornbread wanted to write about a very specific situation.  We run into this obstacle as songwriters all the time…and that’s why compromise becomes the key…finding that halfway point between saying what you need to say without creating obstacles in the melody by trying to hurry up or slow down as the words come out.  This is one of Cornbread’s greatest opportunities to continue to evolve in his art & music, and like I say all the time here on these pages of ours, he should be seriously excited about that.  It’s so freakishly hard to create perfect songs, and it happens so much more rarely than any cat out there in independent journalism would have you believing…but the real truth is that there’s almost always something that can be done better than it is in more songs than not.  That doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE the musicianship on “Wedding Day” – I do!  It doesn’t mean I don’t really like the majority of the way that Cornbread sings this last song either – I do!  It just means there’s space for him to strengthen his songwriting & material, and I consider that to be a great thing.  I can’t imagine stepping out of the gate completely perfect and having nowhere else to go but down – we should all want and hope for room to grow in what we create.  What I love most about “Wedding Day” is exactly the same thing that trips it up a little bit – it’s the vast amount of imagery and detail in the words…this is VIVID stuff you can SEE in your mind as Cornbread sings it…and that reveals the real gift he’s got with his lyricism and songwriting overall.  So what if there’s an extra syllable here or there, or a couple more needed – he’s doing so many things RIGHT already & he should be completely STOKED about that.  I know I am – Drivin’ Like Hell is a quality debut.

Find out more about Cornbread Wallace from his official website at:

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