How about some independent music on Independence Day? Here's my own declaration of cool tunes I discovered in May and June.
Rodney Crowell worked with one of his favorite wordsmiths on a special project, yet Mary Karr is far more famous as an author. For her first foray into songwriting, she teamed with Crowell for Kin, a full album of new songs. Karr doesn't sing, but Crowell chimes in on "My Father's Advice," with sage delivery by Kris Kristofferson. Another gold star goes to Lee Ann Womack, whose interpretation of "Momma's on a Roll" feels like a memoir set to music.
Mary Chapin Carpenter takes a pensive look around on her new album, Ashes & Roses. About two-thirds of the way through the album, the clouds part and, hey, it's James Taylor! Their duet "Soul Companion," which Carpenter wrote, is a pleasant charmer that would have fit perfectly on her hit albums from the 1990s.
Bluegrass fans are encouraged to find Foggy Mountain Special: A Bluegrass Tribute to Earl Scruggs -- an outstanding all-star salute to the banjo pioneer who died earlier this year. Audie Blaylock's "A Real Good Way to Lose," Jerry Douglas' "Duke and Cookie," the Lonesome River Band's "Barely Beat the Devil In," Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top X-Press' "I'm Going Back to the Mountain," Pa's Fiddle Band's "Yellow Heifer" and Alan Tompkins' "No Part of Nothin' Blues" are also worthy picks.
If you're into roots-rock, try the BoDeans' "All the World," the dB's "That Time Is Gone," Pat Guadagno's "You Never Even Tried," Hacienda's "Savage," Langhorne Slim's "Bad Luck," Little Feat's "Rooster Rag," Six Market Blvd's "Stand," Mic Harrison and the High Score's "Out of the Blue" and ZZ Top's "Over You."
Americana listeners may enjoy Elizabeth Cook's "Gospel Plow," Bela Fleck and Marcus Roberts Trio's "Across the Imaginary Divide," Andrew Leahey & the Homestead's "Penitentiary Guys," Marley's Ghost's "Rollin'," O'Brien Party of 7's cover of Roger Miller's "As Long as There's a Shadow," Red June's "Soul's Repair," Ruby Jane's "Celebrity (Empire of Emptiness)," Leftover Salmon's "Aquatic Hitchhiker" and the Troubadour Kings' "Get Lucky."
Finally, if you're drawn to singer-songwriters, spend some time with Mark Bates' "Ghost Tonight," Fallon Cush's "Where Your Name Is Carved," Robert Francis' "Perfectly Yours," Don Hall's "First Person Prodigal Son," Bap Kennedy's "The Beauty of You" and Korby Lenker's "My Little Life," which won the songwriting competition at this year's Kerrville Folk Festival.
Rhett Miller's catchy "Lost Without You" conveys a man adrift, yet the persistent melody just won't let go. (This tune also has one of my favorite lines this year: "She was not like the rest/Until she left.") Other recommended tracks include Kelli Scarr's "You Could Be So Great," Marc Scibilia's "Bright Day Coming," Mindy Smith's "Sober," Chris Smither's "Place in Line" and Anna Ternheim's "Walking Aimlessly."