Chesney big cheese

Wilco disc 'Foxtrot' sashays into top 20

Mainstream country crooner Kenny Chesney may own the No. 1 spot on the latest album charts, but alt-country veterans Wilco logged the jaw-dropper of the week, breaking into the top 20 with their latest disc after ankling their major-label deal last year.

“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” on the eclectic Warner Music outpost Nonesuch Records landed at No. 13 this week amid widespread critical acclaim. The band garnered heavy press attention when it bought back the album, which scanned nearly 56,000 copies in its debut sesh, after their previous label Warner/Reprise Records voiced worries over its marketability.

“Yankee” is by far the best-performing debut in Wilco’s history. Its previous album, 1999’s “Summerteeth” (Warner/Reprise), opened in the 70s with about 19,000 records sold, Nonesuch senior veepee David Bither said. And “Yankee” bowed with minimal radio airplay, he added.

“We’ve certainly seen a tremendous outpouring in terms of media coverage — the story is attractive in terms of the underdog element, and the band certainly has a loyal constituency,” Bither said. “But the most important thing to us is that people have been saying this is a dramatic and great album.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee-born Chesney’s top-seeded sixth album, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” (BNA), performed well as expected, selling more than 235,000 copies out of the gate. “Shirt” pushed Ashanti’s self-titled Def Jam disc into second place after three weeks on top, as sales declined by 25% to 143,000.

Also bowing strongly was the soundtrack to the upcoming blockbuster sequel “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” (Sony Classical). Score, composed and conducted by John Williams, landed in sixth place, scanning nearly 73,000 units.

Debuting at 11 was “Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections” (Arista) from former Goodie Mob rapper Cee-Lo, which moved just over 57,000 discs. And new-wave pioneer Elvis Costello opened at 20 with his latest effort, “When I Was Cruel” (Island), with 39,000 copies sold.

Also making the top 50, hardcore rapper Big Moe bowed at 29 with “Purple World” (Priority), selling nearly 35,000 units; at 36 was adult-contemporary singer Michael Bolton’s “Only a Woman Like You” (Jive), with 31,000 records scanned.

Synth-pop duo the Pet Shop Boys and post-punk songsmith Paul Westerberg — both of whom, like Wilco, cut ties with a major label recently — each debuted in the top 100. The Boys’ latest effort, “Release” (Sanctuary), reached 73, while Westerberg’s “Stereo” (Vagrant) landed at 81.

Another monster soundtrack, “Spider-Man” (Sony/Island Def Jam), is expected to break the top 10 next week — as is “Hood Rich,” the latest disc from Universal Music rap duo Big Tymers.