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Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Boys

Acres of Heartache – 1999 (HMG/HighTone)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Boys

Johnny Dilks better get used to comparisons to Wayne Hancock (if he isn't already), because reviews of his first disk are likely to be full of them. While his voice and hillbilly sentiments may inevitably call forth such comparisons, however, it would be unfair to regard Dilks as simply a Hancock clone.

Dilks works a somewhat narrower territory than Hancock's juke joint swing - for the most part straight hillbilly with forays into western swing and honky tonk, and occasional bluegrass flourishes courtesy of Visitacion Valley Boy Brian Godchaux's mandolin. The songs, most written by Dilks, reveal influences readily enough: "Lose That Woman Blues" and "One Foot In the Grave" have the mark of Hank Williams, "Acres of Heartache" starts off with a strolling Marty Robbins-esque vibe before it kicks uptempo for its chorus, "Yodel Til I Turn Blue" is a talking blues la Tex Williams, and "Grey Eagle" an old fiddle tune with lyrics added by Dilks, sounds just like early Bob Wills (and Dilks' frequent instructions, vocal asides, and whoops also reflect the influence of Wills).

Dilks' engaging vocals and accomplished yodeling aside, the performances seem flat at times, and the band is sometimes a little rough around the edges, but this seems more a matter of growing pains than permanent disability, and doesn't prevent the disc from being a promising debut of old-style hillbilly music.