A bevy of titles infuse the Top Country Albums chart's top 10 without the aid of country radio
Casey Donahew Band leads a string of top 20 debuts onto Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, none of which are driven by mainstream, large-market country radio airplay.
A staple on the Texas club circuit performing a brand of music commonly known as "red dirt," which mixes country, southern rock, swing and more, Donahew's group nabs Hot Shot Debut honors at No. 7 with "Standoff," which starts with 13,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's the best rank for a red dirt album since the Josh Abbott Band peaked on opening week at No. 5 with "Small Town Family Dream" a year ago. Abbott's set was the first of three top 10 starts by red dirt acts last year, followed by Wade Bowen's No. 9 launch with "The Given" last June and Aaron Watson's No. 9 debut with "Real Good Time" last fall. Donahew's new set is the act's second top 10, preceded by "Double-Wide Dream," which debuted at No. 10 in November 2011.
The aforementioned artists seemingly mark the most noteworthy representation of the niche country music subset since Pat Green strung together five top 10 debuts, three of which opened at No. 2, on Top Country Albums between 2001 and 2009.
Donahew's debut is followed at No. 12 by country/folk rock vet Steve Earle's "Low Highway," which sells 11,000. With 10,000 sold apiece, fellow red dirt artist Granger Smith's "Dirt Road Driveway" bows at No. 15, while Willie Nelson's "Let's Face the Music and Dance" follows at No. 16.
Top Country Albums is dominated for a second cumulative week by Blake Shelton's "Based on a True Story," which steps 2-1 with 42,000 sold (down 31%).
STILL 'CRUISE'-IN': On the Hot Country Songs chart, Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" collects an eighth total week at the summit (the track's first and most recent three weeks on top have been in consecutive runs), adding Streaming Gainer stripes for a 33% spike, according to Nielsen BDS.
Up 4-2, Darius Rucker's "Wagon Wheel" draws Digital Gainer applause (91,000 sold, up 1%), while the Airplay Gainer award goes to Carrie Underwood's "See You Again" (45-35) for a 202% audience surge.
Concurrently, Florida Georgia Line and Rucker occupy the top two positions on Country Digital Songs, where the duo leads with 129,000 sold (down 28%), with its remix featuring rapper Nelly accounting for 80,000 of the weekly total. "Cruise" spends an eighth week atop Country Streaming Songs (and with a 28-26 jump, reaches a new peak in its fourth week on the Pop Songs radio airplay scorecard).
'HIGHWAY' 10: Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift fatten their respective top 10 totals on the radio-fueled Country Airplay chart with "Highway Don't Care," which steps 11-10. The track becomes McGraw's 49th top 10, dating to his first, "Indian Outlaw," which rose to No. 8 in 1994. It's the 17th for Swift, a sum started by the song (not artist …) "Tim McGraw," which peaked at No. 6 in 2007.
"Highway" marks McGraw's sixth vocal pairing to reach the top 10, four of which were duets with his wife, Faith Hill. He also shared billing with Jo Dee Messina on "Bring on the Rain," which spent one week atop the chart in 2001. (Only two of McGraw's charted duets have missed the top 10: "Me and Tennessee," with Gwyneth Paltrow, which peaked at No. 34 in 2011, and "Feel Like a Rock Star," with Kenny Chesney, which hit No. 11 a year ago.)
Among all artists over the 23-year BDS era on Country Airplay, McGraw remains in sole possession of the third-most top 10s, after George Strait (61) and Alan Jackson (51). Among women over that span, Swift and Carrie Underwood are now tied for fifth-most top 10s. The top four are Reba McEntire (36), Hill (22), Martina McBride (20) and Trisha Yearwood (19). Shania Twain trails Swift and Underwood with 16 top 10s.
1 FOR TWO: Atop Country Airplay, Lady Antebellum continues its streak of multi-week leaders with "Downtown," which holds for a second week at No. 1. All but one of the trio's seven chart-toppers have spent more than one week at the summit, the lone exception being "I Run to You," which became the group's first No. 1 in July 2009.
The threesome's longest chart-topping run is five weeks with its second topper, "Need You Now" (November/December 2009). Like "Downtown," Lady A's other leaders since "Now" have each logged two weeks atop the chart: "American Honey" (2010); "Our Kind of Love" (2010); "Just a Kiss" (2011) and "We Owned the Night" (2011).