Flatts still flying

Country trio tops charts for third week

Rascal Flatts held on to the No. 1 slot for a third consecutive week as the music biz took a one-week breather from major new releases.

The country-pop trio sold an additional 143,000 copies of “Me and My Gang” (Lyric Street) in the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Cume is 1.2 million copies.

Disc is lording over a top 10 filled with two of the year’s sturdiest sellers (Disney’s “High School Musical” at No. 3, Atlantic act James Blunt’s “Back to Bedlam” at No. 7), two “American Idol”-assisted sales stories (Shakira and Daniel Powter at Nos. 8 and 9, respectively) and the ubiquitous “Now” series at No. 2.

The next question will be how well top-10ers T.I., Toby Keith and Tim McGraw can weather next week’s avalanche of newcomers, who include Godsmack and Bruce Springsteen.

Sales for the year so far are almost even with 2005 at 172.5 million units sold. Helping keep those numbers propped up are the albums that, in the month after they debut, tally sales that exceed the opening sesh.

Prince, for example, is almost at breakeven. His “3121” opened at No. 1 in the week ended March 26, selling 183,000 copies. Album has sold another 178,000 in the month since.

Other top 20 debuts that week: B.G.’s “Heart of tha Streetz Vol. 2,” with 67,000 to open/62,000 since; Ben Harper’s “Both Sides of the Gun,” 59,000/78,000; Teddy Geiger’s “Underage Thinking,” 56,000/95,000; and Kenny Rogers’ “Water & Bridges,” 44,000/63,000.

Year’s total has also been helped by a number of quiet, consistent sellers. Alan Jackson’s “Precious Memories,” currently No. 12, and Ne-Yo’s “In My Own Words” at No. 13, have spent their two months of release in the top 20, selling 467,000 and 753,000 copies, respectively. Mary J. Blige’s “Breakthrough” (Geffen) has done 1.2 million of its 2.18 million sales this year.

Late 2005 release from Panic! at the Disco, “Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” topped 500,000 sold last week by doing 32,000 in sales (No. 17); country singer Josh Turner’s “Your Man” (No. 41) has sold 580,000 in 13 weeks; and Dem Franchise Boyz’s “On Top of Our Game,” which sold 106,000 copies when it debuted in early February, has hit a cume of 414,000 despite recent sales of only 16,000-19,000 per week.

Andrea Bocelli’s “Amore,” at No. 25, sold 340,000 in the two-week Valentine’s Day shopping period and has done 400,000 more since. As he’s this week’s “American Idol” guest coach, disc could potentially triple its sales of 24,000 copies last week.

Also, “Legend of Johnny Cash” (Island/Columbia Legacy) has showed no signs of slowing down: It sold 29,000 copies last week to move up to No. 18. Cume is 1.6 million.

This week’s top 50 debuts all hail from the indie world. Dresden Dolls’ “Yes Virginia” (Roadrunner) sold 19,000 (No. 42); Nofx’s “Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing” (Fat Wreck Chords) sold 18,000 (No. 46); and Drive By Truckers’ “Blessing & a Curse” (New West) sold 17,000 (No. 50).

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