E ric Church logs his first No. 1 in ten tries on Country Songs, as "Drink in My Hand" leaps 3-1 in its 23rd chart week. He established his previous benchmark with a pair of successive No. 10 peaks; "Love Your Love the Most" in October 2009 and "Hell on the Heart" in May 2010.
The chart-topping feat -- a first for Church's label, EMI Nashville -- was boldly predicted last summer by Capitol/EMI Nashville president Mike Dungan after the artist turned industry heads with a No. 1 debut on Country Albums (and the Billboard 200), selling 145,000 copies of third album "Chief.
"I can comfortably project that our next single will be a No. 1 single at radio, which will be massive for him, because we haven't had anything near that so far," Dungan told Billboard in August. "And then we'll follow it up with another No. 1. I feel very comfortable with that."
Label sources tell Billboard that Church's next single will be "Springsteen," which is slated to be serviced to radio programmers Feb. 6.
Opening January 19 in Ft. Smith, Ark., Church's first headlining concert tour is billed "The Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour," with featured artist Brantley Gilbert -- he also celebrated his first No. 1 on Hot Country Songs with "Country Must Be Country Wide" in November. The track ranks at No. 10 on Country Digital Songs, where Nielsen SoundScan reports sales of more than 477,000 downloads.
Martina McBride returns to the top 10 on Country Songs for the first time in nearly five years, as "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" (Republic Nashville) draws 23.7 million listener impressions and shifts 11-10 in its 26th chart week. Although she hadn't reached the upper tier since "Anyway" peaked at No. 7 in March 2007, McBride had a pair of close calls during that time frame when "Ride" (2009) and "Wrong Baby Wrong" (2010) both peaked at No. 11. The artist now has 20 top 10's to her credit, including five No. 1 achievements-she most recently led with "Blessed" in March 2002.
With spins tracked at 70 of the 132 stations monitored by BDS for the chart, Rascal Flatts draws Hot Shot Debut applause at No. 37 on Country Songs with "Banjo" (Big Machine), the lead single from the trio's next album, set for a springtime retail release.
Alan Jackson claims his 80th hit on the on Country Songs, as "So You Don¹t Have to Love Me Anymore" (ACR/EMI Nashville) bows at No. 58. Since his arrival on the list back on Oct. 21, 1989, he is now tied with Garth Brooks for the second-most visits to the chart. Only George Strait (with 92) has earned more since then.
Additional reporting by Gary Trust in New York.