Johnny Cash Rises Again on Album Charts

The Man in Black's American V: A Hundred Highways Debuts at No. 1

Ignited by a flurry of rave reviews, Johnny Cash’s American V: A Hundred Highways rockets straight to the top of this week’s Billboard 200, a chart that tallies the nation’s bestselling albums of all genres. That achievement automatically puts it on the peak of Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart as well and marks the first time a Cash album has debuted at No. 1.

But the sales action isn’t limited to the new album. Just about everything Cash is golden these days. While the soundtrack to the biopic, I Walk the Line, holds steady at No. 24 (after 34 weeks on the chart), The Legend of Johnny Cash advances from No. 9 to No. 8. Cash’s Personal File goes from No. 49 to No. 43 as 16 Biggest Hits, his joint collection with wife June Carter Cash, bumps from No. 70 to No. 58. All of these albums have been much higher on the chart than they are now but are getting a second wind via this latest wave of publicity.

On the singles list, Brad Paisley’s “The World” finally trudges into No. 1 — after 17 weeks of trying — while Kenny Chesney’s tenacious “Summertime” falls back to No. 2. Carrie Underwood’s “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” and Toby Keith’s “A Little Too Late” keep the same No. 3 and No. 4 slots, respectively, that they occupied last week.

Great news for Rodney Atkins. This guy’s been charting — albeit irregularly — since 1997. But he didn’t turn many heads until 2003 when his single “Honesty (Write Me a List)” earned enough airplay to reach No. 4. It’s been pretty quiet since then. This week, however, Atkins’ “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” chugs into No. 5. It looks like it may have enough momentum to equal — and maybe even surpass — his previous high point.

Now back to the albums. Knocked off their perch by the Cash meteor, the Dixie Chicks see their Taking the Long Way fall to No. 2 after eight weeks at the summit. Rascal Flatts’ Me and My Gang retreats from No. 2 to No. 3. Underwood’s Some Hearts steps up from No. 5 to No. 4, and Tim McGraw’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2 climbs back from No. 6 to No. 5. (All these albums are former No. 1′s.)

Hank Williams Jr.’s That’s How They Do It in Dixie: The Essential Collection slides from its previous high-water mark of No. 3 to No. 7, and Josh Turner’s Your Man (earlier a No. 1) strides back up from No. 16 to No. 10.. Ronnie Milsap’s My Life, which entered last week at No. 46, rolls back to No. 53. Also in its second week, Sammy Kershaw’s Honky Tonk Boots, scoots from No. 56 to No. 71.

Singles making their debut this week are Bob Seger’s “Wait for Me” (No. 54), Jo Dee Messina’s “It’s Too Late to Worry” (No. 58) and Steve Azar’s “You Don’t Know a Thing” (No. 59).

It’s been a long time since country radio welcomed Cash — make that “welcomed Johnny Cash.” His last chart single — “Hurt” in 2003 — debuted at a near subterranean No. 56 and dropped off after one week. This unconscionable neglect makes the Cash triumph all the more delicious. It’s always refreshing to see art trump radio airplay.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.