Chesney, Rimes Bring Country Back To The Top

New hit albums by Kenny Chesney and LeAnn Rimes bring a taste of country back to the top of The Billboard 200 this week. Chesney earns his third consecutive chart-topping studio album with "Be As You

New hit albums by Kenny Chesney and LeAnn Rimes bring a taste of country back to the top of The Billboard 200 this week. Chesney earns his third consecutive chart-topping BNA studio album with "Be As You Are: Songs From An Old Blue Chair." After a brief sojourn with pop music, a return to country on "This Woman" (Curb) gives Rimes her highest debut since 1997 at No. 3. The releases also bow at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.

"Be As You Are" moved 311,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, besting last week's No. 1 title, the Game's "The Documentary," which falls to No. 2 on a 55% slide to 265,000 copies.

Chesney grabbed his first No. 1 in 2002 with "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," which started with 235,000 and has sold 3.6 million to date. Last year's "When the Sun Goes Down" also bowed in the top slot, selling 551,000 in its first week and has moved 3.1 million so far. The album remains at No. 44 this week on the chart on a 28% sales boost to 23,000 copies.

Rimes' "This Woman" sold 101,000 copies to earn its No. 3 ranking, besting the 66,000 that 2002's "Twisted Angel" moved to start at No. 12. The singer's highest bows remain 1997's "Unchained Melody/The Early Years" and "You Light Up My Life - Inspirational Songs," both of which debuted at No 1.

After weeks of declining sales, the top 10 finally gets a lift as most of the titles improved their totals over the previous week. Sales of Green Day's "American Idiot" (Reprise) rose 11% to 95,000 units but drops 2-4. Similarly, Eminem's "Encore" (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope) got a 4% boost to 78,000, but falls 3-5, and John Legend's "Get Lifted" (Sony Urban Music/Columbia) descends 5-6, despite a 2% sales increase to 64,000 copies.

Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz's "Crunk Juice" (TVT) joins the Game as the only top tier acts that experienced a sales dip, as it drops 4-7 on a 1% slide to 63,000. Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" (RCA) rose 1% to 62,000 units but falls 6-8 on the chart, while Usher's "Confessions" (LaFace/Zomba) drops 7-9 even though it saw a 9% increase to 57,000.

Three years after his last album, Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes is back with the two highest bows of its career. Released simultaneously, the acoustic-driven "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" (Saddle Creek) bows at No. 10 with 56,000 units, while the more experimental "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" starts at No. 15 with 46,000 copies. Previously, the act spent only one week on the big chart at No. 161 with 2002's "Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground," which has sold 200,000 to date.

The Geto Boys' "The Foundation" (Rap-A-Lot/Virgin) debuts at No. 19 on sales of 42,000 units, while "WOW Gospel 2005" (Word/Curb/EMICMG/Verity/Zomba), featuring songs by Kierra "Kiki" Sheard, CeCe Winans and Smokie Norful, starts at No. 29 with 34,000 copies.

The late Nat King Cole has his highest-charting album in 40 years with Capitol/EMI's "The World of Nat King Cole" debuting at No. 41. The set, which sold 24,000 copies, is the legendary crooner's best opening since 1965's "Unforgettable," which entered at No. 30.

Other notable debuts this week include Ani DiFranco's "Knuckle Down" (Righteous Babe, No. 49), the "One Tree Hill" soundtrack (Maverick, No. 51), Chicago's "Love Songs" (Rhino, No. 57), the Chemical Brothers' "Push the Button" (Astralwerks, No. 59) and Anne Murray's "All of Me" (Straight Way, No. 66).

Overall U.S. album sales were up 9% over the previous week at 10.4 million units and just barely below the same week in 2004 by 0.2%. Year-to-date sales trail last year by about 12.4% at 40.3 million units.