Eric Church, Zac Brown Bringing 'Authentic Country' to Charts -- Will Others Follow?
Eric Church, Zac Brown Bringing 'Authentic Country' to Charts -- Will Others Follow?

Sometimes confident predictions turn out to be more than just cheerleading. When Eric Church surprised the music industry with simultaneous No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 and Country Albums with Chief last summer, then-EMI Nashville/Capitol Nashville president Mike Dungan (now in a similar role at Universal Music Group Nashville) predicted a pair of back-to-back No. 1 singles from the album.

"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. And then we'll follow it up with another No. 1. I feel very comfortable with that," Dungan told Billboard last summer, two weeks after the album's lead single "Homeboy" peaked at No. 13 on the July 30, 2011 Country Songs chart -- then made good on the first half of the projection when second single "Drink in My Hand" capped the January 28 list. The promise of Dungan's prediction is fully realized this week, as third single "Springsteen" becomes the artist's second No. 1 on Country Songs (2-1).

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The new No. 1 reaches the summit four weeks faster (19 weeks) than his first, which needed 23 weeks to ring the top bell. On its way to No. 1 on the radio list, "Springsteen" dominated Country Digital Songs for four weeks, with sales of more than 1.2 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It holds at No. 3 this week (78,000 sold). Now at No. 6 in its 46th week on the Country Albums chart -- all but nine of those weeks inside the top 10 -- Chief has sold 855,000 so far.

Also noteworthy on Country Songs is the 15th top 10 for Dierks Bentley, noted as "5-1-5-0" (Capitol Nashville) advances 11-10. Concurrently, the third single from Bentley's Home album -- the artist's second straight top 10 contender on Country Digital Songs -- sells 44,000 downloads, ranking at No. 8. The album's title track became Bentley's first top 10 on the digital tally, peaking at No. 8 in February. The digital tally is led for a third consecutive week by Bentley's label mate Luke Bryan, whose "Drunk on You" sells 109,000 downloads during the Nielsen SoundScan tracking week.

With Hot Shot Debut honors at No. 27, Zac Brown Band splashes onto Country Songs with the second-highest Nielsen BDS-era debut by a group, as "The Wind" (Southern Ground/Atlantic/RPM) bows with airplay at 85 of the 131 stations monitored for the chart. Among groups during that time frame, Rascal Flatts' "Take Me There" posted the highest arrival when it debuted at No. 24 on the July 21, 2007 chart. Lady Antebellum holds the third-highest start, set when "Just a Kiss" popped onto the May 21, 2011 chart at No. 28. "The Wind" is the lead single from Zac Brown Band's third studio set, Uncaged, which is scheduled for release July 10.

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Meanwhile, Zac Brown's fellow Georgia native Alan Jackson claims his 13th No. 1 on Country Albums with Thirty Miles West, his 15th non-seasonal studio album and his first for EMI Nashville -- all of his previous sets were issued by Arista Nashville, dating back to 1990. The new album pops on with 73,000 sold, good for a No. 2 start on the Billboard 200. His chart history includes 26 No. 1's on Country Songs, most recently as guest singer on Zac Brown Band's "As She's Walking Away" two years ago. Jackson's new album features Brown's group on a track titled "Dixie Highway."

Singer and "One Tree Hill" (WB) actress Jana Kramer's self-titled rookie album (Elektra Nashville/WMN) opens at No. 5 on Country Albums, marking the highest arrival for a woman's debut set since Lauren Alaina's Wildflower entered at No. 2 last fall. Kramer's current single "Why Ya Wanna" rises 18-17 in its 25th week on the radio-driven Country Songs chart.