Women in Music 2016

Alan Jackson Tops Country Albums Chart for a 14th Time; Critical Darling Ashley Monroe at No. 2

Joseph Llanes
Alan Jackson photographed at CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Alan Jackson achieves his 14th No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart (dated Aug. 15) with Angels and Alcohol. The album rises 2-1 despite a 59 percent second-week drop to 18,000 units in the week ending July 30, according to Nielsen Music. The set missed debuting in the top spot on the Aug. 8 chart because of Jason Isbell's likewise-bowing Something More Than Free. Isbell's album sold 46,000 copies that week, while Jackson's moved 45,000. Something More Than Free album falls to No. 4 in its second week, with 10,000 sold (down 78 percent).

Prior to Angels and Alcohol, Jackson last led Top Country Albums with 2012's Thirty Miles West. He first ruled with A Lot About Livin' (And a Little 'Bout Love) in 1993. Angels and Alcohol was advanced by first single "Jim and Jack and Hank," which is currently No. 55 on Country Airplay.

CUTTING THROUGH Arriving at No. 2 on Top Country Albums is The Blade, the third solo set from Ashley Monroe (12,000 in its debut week). This also marks her highest position on the chart as a solo artist. 2013's Like a Rose peaked at No. 10. Her first solo album, Satisfied, did not appear on the survey.

The Blade's release was met with a good amount of buzz and critical acclaim, aided by several media appearances by Monroe. However, she wasn't really thinking about the warm reception until recently. "To be honest, I was so busy finishing the project that I didn't really have time to think about how it would be received," she tells Billboard. " 'The Blade' was the last song we cut, and I really was just kind of consumed with the actual making of the record."

When asked to comment on what was then looking like a high chart debut, Monroe didn't even want to go there. "I do not want to jinx anything," she cautioned. "Wherever it ends up, I'll be pleased. The attention has been kind of overwhelming."

The Blade was produced by Vince Gill and Justin Niebank, the same duo that helmed Like a Rose. Monroe had a hand in writing 12 of the 13 tracks. Songwriting partners include Gill, Jessie Alexander, Sarah Zimmerman (of Striking Matches) and Miranda Lambert. One single has already been released from The Blade, the uptempo "On to Something Good," which stalled at No. 53 on Country Airplay. Radio play has largely eluded the traditional-styled Monroe so far as a lead solo artist. Still, she boasts Country Airplay No. 1s due to being featured on Blake Shelton's "Lonely Tonight" earlier in 2015 and 2013's "Boys 'Round Here," by Shelton featuring Pistol Annies (the trio comprising Monroe, Lambert and Angaleena Presley).

While Monroe is still hoping that radio will fully support her, it's not for a lack of effort. "I did a full radio tour before the first single was released, and they seemed supportive," she says. "We'll see how it all plays out."

'DUST'-IN' THE COMPETITION "Kick the Dust Up" becomes Luke Bryan's 12th No. 1 on Country Airplay, jumping 4-1 (48 million audience impressions, up 20 percent). The track tops Hot Country Songs for a second week and Country Digital Songs for a fourth (nonconsecutive) week (53,000 downloads sold, down 6 percent).

SUCCESSFUL HUNT As Sam Hunt's "Take Your Time" crowns Country Streaming Songs for a 21st week (2.9 million U.S. streams), follow-up "House Party" hikes 3-2 (2.9 million). Hunt dominates the chart's top two simultaneously for the sixth time in 2015 — an honor that no other artist can boast this year. Only Bryan and Florida Georgia Line previously achieved the feat.

This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.