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Country connecting

Chesney, Rimes wrangle major album sales

Country music made a major comeback last week at retail as Kenny Chesney’s “Be as You Are” sold more than 300,000 copies and LeAnn Rimes’ “This Woman” topped 100,000 in sales.

Chesney’s BNA disc sold 310,000 in the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Chesney has become one of the country’s hottest acts in the last three years: Last year’s “When the Sun Goes Down,” which also debuted at No. 1, is at No. 44, having sold 3.1 million copies, while 2002’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” has sold 3.6 million.

“This Woman” (Curb) by Rimes, the songbird who debuted nine years ago as a 13-year-old with Patsy Cline-like pipes, hit No. 3 on sales of 100,000. Rimes is heavily promoting the album, her first country disc in four years, on TV with appearances last week on “Today,” “Live With Regis and Kelly,” “Hannity & Colmes” and Fox’s “Good Day Live.” This week she appears on “The Tonight Show” and “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” and next week she’s on Tony Danza’s gabfest.

Bright Eyes, the moniker used by Nebraska’s Conor Oberst, posted the two best bows of his young career. “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning” (Saddle Creek) sold 56,000 copies to land at No. 10, while “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn” started five spots lower on sales of 46,000. Oberst, hailed as an indie rock savant, had never appeared in the top 100.

Intriguingly, a performer who blazed the self-owned record label trail in the 1990s, Ani DiFranco, debuted at No. 49 as her “Knuckle Down” (Righteous Babe) sold 20,000 in its opening stanza. Like Oberst, she has self-released all of her albums, which now total 17.

Other debuts in the top 50 were Geto Boys’ “The Foundation” (Rap-A-Lot./Virgin) at No. 19, selling 42,000; the “Wow Gospel 2005” compilation on Verity at No. 29 on sales of 34,000; and Capitol/EMI’s collection “The World of Nat King Cole,” which sold 23,000 to land at No. 41. Album of 28 remastered Cole classics is the singer’s first visit to the top 50 in 40 years. In the spring, Capitol/EMI will release a new documentary, also titled “The World of Nat King Cole,” on DVD and in a limited edition CD/DVD set.

Last week’s chart-topper, the Game’s “The Documentary” (Interscope), sold 265,000 copies and dropped one slot. Top 20 discs by Green Day, Usher, Ciara, Fantasia and Nelly all saw slight sales bumps.

The “One Tree Hill” soundtrack (Warners) debuted at No. 51, selling 19,000, while Chicago’s “Love Songs” (Rhino), a collection of hits and live tracks from the band’s tour with Earth, Wind & Fire, came in at No. 57 on sales of 16,000. The Chemical Brothers’ “Push the Button” (Astralwerks) and Anne Murray’s “All of Me” (Straight Way) sold 15,000 each in their debut weeks. The Pat Metheny Group’s “Way Up” (Nonesuch) sold 10,000.

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