Getting By With A Little Help From Their Friends

On Bill and Bonnie Hearne's latest release, a starry cast of supporting players signals the respect afforded the venerated Southwest country-folk duo. Nanci Griffith contributes loving liner notes, Emmylou Harris, Buck Owens, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen make vocal and/or instrumental appearances, and pedal-steel player J.D. Maness offers evocative flourishes.

With warmth and real feeling, the Hearnes and friends bring the album's 13 songs to vibrant life. Most winning are the hopeful-sounding arrangements of Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (RealAudio excerpt), Robert Earl Keen's reflective "Paint the Town Beige," Guy Clark's tender "Fools for Each Other" and "L.A. Freeway" (also included on Back Porch's recent I-10 Chronicles compilation), and a sure-footed trot through Delbert McClinton's "Victim of Life's Circumstances" (RealAudio excerpt).

Bill's vocal sounds appropriately frayed on James Taylor's "Bartender Blues," but otherwise he sings with an earthy vitality that beautifully offsets his wife's angelic soprano. Her rendition of Charles John Quarto and Shake Russell's "Dare of an Angel" (RealAudio excerpt) — a highlight of the Hearnes' recent live appearances — is particularly moving.

Other songs include Butch Hancock's "She Never Spoke Spanish to Me," Buck Owens and Red Simpson's honky-tonkin' "King of Fools" (sung here with Owens) and the title tune by Jerry Chesnut and Mike Hoyer, which features accompaniment from L.A.'s Cousin Lovers.