Following in the footsteps of Alan Jackson's gospel album, Alabama's Songs of Inspiration debuts at the top of this week's Billboard country albums chart. In other chart news, Montgomery Gentry and newcomer Taylor Swift debut new albums in the Top 10, and Carrie Underwood scores the second No. 1 single of her career.
Although Alabama aren't touring anymore, Songs of Inspiration demonstrates the band's continued popularity while adding additional strength to the notion that listeners have an appetite for gospel music performed by mainstream country acts. In the '60s, country artists routinely recorded gospel albums, but the practice began falling to the wayside during the following decade.
Randy Travis began a series of inspirational albums after the 2002 release of Rise and Shine, the album containing the hit single, "Three Wooden Crosses." However, when Jackson debuted at No. 1 on the country albums chart earlier this year with Precious Memories, he became the first country artist to do so with a gospel album. Released in March, Precious Memories has been certified platinum for shipments of 1 million copies.
On the list of the Top 10 country albums, George Strait's It Just Comes Natural remains in second place, and Swift's self-titled debut album hits the chart at No. 3. Underwood's Some Hearts climbs to No. 4, followed by the arrival of Montgomery Gentry's Some People Change at No. 5. Rascal Flatts' Me and My Gang ascends to No. 6, and Jimmy Buffett's Take the Weather With You slips from No. 3 to No. 7. Jackson's Like Red on a Rose wilts from No. 5 to No. 8 while Dierks Bentley's Long Trip Alone travels to No. 9 after debuting last week at No. 1. Josh Turner's Your Man falls one space to close out the Top 10.
Other new albums debuting on the country chart include George Jones and Merle Haggard's Jones Sings Haggard, Haggard Sings Jones at No. 25 and Stoney LaRue's Live at Billy Bob's Texas at No. 65.
Underwood's "Before He Cheats" hits No. 1 after only 15 weeks on the country singles chart. Last week's chart-topper, Bentley's "Every Mile a Memory," moves to No. 2. Kenny Chesney's "You Save Me" rises to No. 3, and Heartland's "I Loved Her First" falls to No. 4. Despite an increase in airplay, Rascal Flatts' "My Wish" slides one notch to No. 5. Sugarland's "Want To" moves up to No. 6, Keith Urban's "Once in a Lifetime" descends to No. 7, Tim McGraw's "My Little Girl" climbs to No. 8 and Turner's "Would You Go With Me" falls to No. 9.
And far be it for anyone to suggest that Rodney Atkins made a secret pact with the devil, but his single, "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)," experienced an increase in airplay to regain its chart bullet and return to the Top 10. It's an impressive achievement, too, considering that Atkins' single hit No. 1 in early August.
Elsewhere on the country singles chart, Sara Evans has the highest-debuting title. "Missing Missouri" enters at No. 56. The only other single debuting this week is a No. 60 appearance by Blake Shelton with "Don't Make Me."