The icon ends the second-longest gap between leaders in the chart's archives. Plus, moves for Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan and more.
With the second-longest span between No. 1s in the chart's 50-year history, and the longest for a living artist, Willie Nelson closes a 28-year gap at the Top Country Albums summit, as "Band of Brothers" arrives as his 12th leader with 37,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Nelson had last reached No. 1 when "The Promiseland" spent its first of two weeks atop the May 31, 1986, list.
The only artist with a longer break between topping the chart is Johnny Cash, who spanned 35 years between "Man in Black" (1971) and "American V: A Hundred Highways" (2006). Cash died in 2003.
With the start of "Band," Nelson scores his second-best SoundScan-era sales week. He posted his highest sum with "To All the Girls…," (43,000 first-week copies sold, Nov. 2, 2013).
"Band" also establishes a new SoundScan-era record for Nelson on the Billboard 200, where its No. 5 start marks his highest-charting album since 1982; it's just his third solo top 10. The new set was supported by a well-received concert and promotion with shopping channel QVC, with sources suggesting that the network contributed a significant portion of the album's first-week sales. Nelson last charted higher on the Billboard 200 with "Always on My Mind," which spent four weeks at No. 2 in July 1982. "Band" is Nelson's second consecutive top 10 on the Billboard 200, following "Girls," which debuted and peaked at No. 9 (and No. 2 on Top Country Albums). Like "Band," "Girls" was promoted through QVC.
'KIDS' STUFF: Kenny Chesney hooks the Hot Shot Debut at No. 17 on Hot Country Songs with "American Kids," marking his fourth title (of 77 total entries) to start so high. "Kids" opens at No. 7 on Country Digital Songs with 40,000 downloads sold and repeats Hot Shot Debut roses (No. 27) on the Nielsen BDS-fueled Country Airplay tally.
"Two hooks, three rhythm scans and some of the most ingenious wordplay I've ever heard," is how Chesney describes the song, which shouts-out Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." and other pop culture references. For a fun summer track, it also carries a message, ultimately deciding that today's "down-home American kids" are "a little messed up, but we're all alright."
"There is so much more to being alive than partying, tailgates and bonfires," Chesney says. "It's every single detail of being young, growing up, remembering when, laughing about how, but especially knowing you can still do all those things. American kids are so much more complicated, more fun, more real. [The song] captures all the little things that life really is made of.
"Just because it makes you smile, that doesn't mean a song can't say something."
'BAR'-HOPPING: Lady Antebellum's "Bartender" jumps 10-6 on Hot Country Songs with top Streaming and Digital Gainer honors. The track drew 820,000 U.S. streams (up 22 percent) and sales of 61,000 downloads (up 16 percent) in the week ending June 22.
HUNT FOR A HIT: Newcomer Sam Hunt debuts at No. 26 on Hot Country Songs and No. 19 on Country Digital Songs (22,000 first-week downloads sold) with "Leave the Night On." The song also posts a second-week surge on Country Airplay (53-33), aided by plays on Clear Channel Media and Entertainment-owned stations that featured the song in the company's "On the Verge" spotlight during the tracking week.
HUNTING PARTNER: Sam Hunt also co-wrote Billy Currington's "We Are Tonight," which pushes 11-10 to become Currington's 12th top 10 on Country Airplay. He'd most recently reached the upper tier with "Hey Girl," which led the Oct. 19, 2013, list.
DON'T LUKE DOWN: Luke Bryan debuts at No. 60 on Country Airplay with "Roller Coaster," the fifth single from his "Crash My Party" album. Fourth single "Play It Again" dips 3-4 following a four-week stand at No. 1; the ballad also rebounds 2-1 for a ninth total week atop Hot Country Songs. All but one of the album's prior singles reached the Country Airplay apex; "That's My Kind of Night" rose to No. 2 in November.
With the new track's official video released on June 21, the midtempo "Roller Coaster" also rides onto Hot Country Songs at No. 47.
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield