Anthony Cullins, who won’t legally be allowed to vote or buy a lottery ticket until December of this year, has emerged from San Diego’s North County with his band the Fallbrook Vigilantes, to begin his climb. Their first full length offering, 2017’s “Hittin’ All Cylinders” is a traditional blues rock effort on first listen. Upon further listens, the album opens its doors. We’re dealing with 12-bar blues, but there’s more here – new school techniques learned, not from obvious influences like Clapton and Hendrix, but Tom Morello.
It’s far too easy for young men to go, go, go, faster and faster, in order to brag and boast about their ability. Third track, ‘Seeing Tomorrow’ isn’t about that level of arrogance. There are moments when the gunfire subsides and Cullins has enough restraint to the let some of that smoke settle before opening fire again. It’s a skill that guitarists, but more importantly, band leaders, develop over time. Cullins isn’t just a guitar player. He leads this band, and as his experience grows his touch will become defter.
The album’s fifth track, ‘Witchcraft Love’ owes as much to the guitar pyrotechnics of that certain Seattle-born voodoo high priest as it does to the funk of Eddie Hazel. Waves of wah wah come at us throughout the piece as Cullins regales us with his tale of love sorcery. This is fitting subject matter for a young guitar slinger who’s not reaching for something beyond his grasp. He’s not overstepping here. The driving rhythm in straight-ahead 4/4 time serves as the ideal vehicle for The Fallbrook Kid to let loose. Few subjects are as well suited to guitar heroics than love, and Cullins is right in line with the grand Blues tradition here.
‘California Boogie,’ track ten, isn’t as predictable as the name would suggest. An instrumental workout, the track isn’t about blazing new trails, but becomes something of Cullins’ meditation on Southern California. One could be tempted to blame him for meditating on California, as many hundreds of artists have before, but this is the standout track here. He’s showing off a little bit, to be sure, but what talented 17-year-old wouldn’t? ‘California Boogie’ owes something to hard bop jazz as well. Listen carefully and you can feel the interplay between the musicians, and especially a smoking organ, played by Jody Bagley, that doesn’t appear much in other tracks. It’s a welcome presence here and provides an essential balance.
What is particularly interesting to this reviewer is Young Master Cullins wrote and produced ‘Hitting All Cylinders’ himself. There’s growth to be had, as there is always, but this debut from The Fallbrook Kid and his band of experienced players such as Dwane “Da Pocket” Hathorn on drum, Bruce Borden on bass, Jody Bagley on keys, and special appearances by Gino Mateo and Darrell Mansfield shows us that we all start somewhere, it’s just that some starting lines give better head starts than others.