“Give It Away” Becomes George Strait’s 41st No. 1

Rodney Atkins, Randy Rogers Band Have Highest Debuts

For the 41st time in 25 years, George Strait has sung his way to the top of Billboard‘s country singles chart — this time with the dolorous ballad, “Give It Away.” Matching him in altitude — if not longevity — is Rascal Flatts, whose Me and My Gang maintains its No. 1 hold on Billboard‘s album chart as tenaciously as a college professor with tenure.

Most of the action is among the singles, with five new songs coming aboard this week’s chart. Rodney Atkins’ “Watching You” leads the pack at No. 47 and is followed by American Idol émigré Kellie Pickler’s “Red High Heels” (No. 48), Darryl Worley’s “I Just Came Back From a War” (No. 52), Clay Walker’s “‘Fore She Was Mama” (No. 56) and Little Big Town’s “Good as Gone” (No. 58). Worley and Wynn Varble, who co-wrote Worley’s “Have You Forgotten,” also penned “I Just Came Back From a War,” a sobering new combat-centered entry.

There are only three new titles on the album chart: the Randy Rogers Band’s Just a Matter of Time, which clocks in at a commanding No. 8, Nickel Creek alum Chris Thile’s How to Grow a Woman From the Ground, sprouting at No. 46 (and emerging at No. 2 on the bluegrass chart); and Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard, which collects most of the singer’s Capitol Records highlights and a few from his MCA and Epic epochs. It enters at No. 60.

Bunching up in order behind Strait on the singles chart are Josh Turner’s “Would You Go With Me,” Steve Holy’s “Brand New Girlfriend,” Brooks & Dunn’s “Building Bridges” (featuring Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill) and the Wreckers’ “Leave The Pieces.”

Alan Jackson’s “Like Red on a Rose” drops back one notch from its previous high point of No. 18. But Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw” advances from No. 27 to No. 26, spurred on, no doubt, by her music video and its “Strawberry Wine” overtones.

As with his single, Turner’s album, Your Man, stands behind Rascal Flatts to claim the No. 2 space. Directly following it are Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts, Trace Adkins’ Dangerous Man and Tim McGraw’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2.

The album with the fastest legs this week is Johnny Cash: Country Legends, which sprints from No. 74 to No. 59. Keith Anderson’s Three Chord Country and American Rock & Roll also makes a significant leap — from No. 54 to No. 39.

Albums demonstrating the most sticking power are Keith Urban’s Be Here, Rascal Flatts’ Feels Like Today and Strait’s 50 Number Ones, which have been on the charts for 104, 103 and 102 weeks, respectively. (If that last title sets off alarm bells about how many No. 1 singles Strait really has, here’s the answer: By Billboard‘s measure, he’s earned 41, but if you include those awarded by Radio & Records and other music trade publications, his total stands at 53.)

See you on the playground next week.