Although Christian music is widely known for its imposing diversity in source, style and theme, contemporary inspirational music aimed at Mormons gives the genre an added dimension, as veteran artist Hilary Weeks becomes the first such act to debut in the top 10 on Billboard's Christian Albums list.
With more than 4,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the artist's eighth album, "Every Step," released on the Shadow Mountain label, opens on the tally with Hot Shot Debut honors at No. 6. Surely aiding the arrival: Weeks is headlining the current women and youth tour "Time Out for Women."
The previous highest rank for a Mormon artist on Christian Albums came courtesy of Jenny Oaks Baker, who peaked on opening week at No. 26 the week of May 1, 2010, with "Then Sings My Soul."
Despite the fact that the internationally-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been a staple on Billboard's religious and classical music charts since the '50s - alongside other well-known artists/members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), such as Marie Osmond and Gladys Knight - Weeks' career has been forged making music specifically for Mormon audiences. She released her first solo album in 1996 and has been honored multiple times by the Utah-based Faith Centered Music Assn. (FCMA) at the group's annual Pearl Awards (The organization reportedly suspended its awards activities last year, although it is planning to re-launch).
Worldwide LDS church membership stands at approximately 14 million (a majority of those outside the U.S.), but the Mormon music market is driven by a small-but-thriving cottage industry, whose major retail arm is the church-owned book publisher and retailer Deseret Book. The entity boasts approximately 30 retail locations, mostly in the western U.S.