With Sugarland, the duo she comprises with Kristian Bush, on indefinite hiatus, Jennifer Nettles storms onto Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart at No. 1 with “That Girl.” Her first solo set opens with 54,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan (and arrives on the Billboard 200 at No. 5).
The entrance picks up where Nettles left off with Sugarland. The duo’s six entries all reached the top three on Top Country Albums in 2005-10, with three hitting No. 1, including its last, 2010’s “The Incredible Machine.” On Hot Country Songs, Sugarland has scored 11 top 10s, including five No. 1s. (Nettles also topped the latter tally solo as a guest on Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” The song led for two weeks in 2006.)
Nettles is the second woman in the 22-year SoundScan era to debut at No. 1 on Top Country Albums with a solo album after initially gaining fame in a duo or group. Wynonna’s self-titled 1992 solo debut followed her storied eight-year run as half of the Judds with her mother, Naomi Judd.
Nettles’ “That Girl” includes co-writes with Sara Bareilles (“This One’s for You”) and Richard Marx (“Know You Wanna Know”), as well as a remake of Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock,” a No. 1 hit on the Mainstream Rock chart in 1986.
CASH-ING IN: Rosanne Cash enters Top Country Albums at No. 2 with “The River & the Thread,” which begins with 19,000 sold. The start marks her highest Soundscan-era debut (passing her previous best, a No. 5 launch for “The List” in 2009) and her best overall rank in more than 28 years; she hadn’t charted so loftily since “Rhythm & Romance” topped the chart dated Dec. 7, 1985.
The new set also gives Cash her best-ever rank on the Billboard 200, where it opens at No. 11. It tops the No. 22 peak set by “The List.”
PARDI FAVORED: Newcomer Jon Pardi rounds out the trio of debuts in the Top Country Albums top three, as his debut album, “Write You a Song,” bows at No. 3 (17,000). Concurrently, the album’s “Up All Night” rises 13-10 to become his first top 10 on Hot Country Songs.
‘HOMETOWN’ NEWS: Eric Church logs his seventh Hot Country Songs top 10 with “Give Me Back My Hometown,” which rockets 25-7 in its third week. The track becomes Church’s third leader on Country Digital Songs (12-1), soaring by 114% to 61,000 downloads sold. He also topped the digital list for four weeks with “Springsteen” two years ago, and for two weeks in November with “The Outsiders.” The latter song is the title track from Church’s new album, due Feb. 11.
COLE’S CUTS: While Cole Swindell’s “Chillin’ It” reaches a new peak at No. 2 on Hot Country Songs, “I Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” another track from his self-titled debut album, snares the Hot Shot Debut at No. 27. It debuts at No. 8 on Country Digital Songs with 36,000 downloads sold.
Swindell’s set arrives on Feb. 18.
NEW ‘FRIENDS’: Florida Georgia Line debuts at No. 40 on Hot Country Songs with its cover of “Friends in Low Places,” which also debuts on Country Digital Songs at No. 25 (17,000 downloads sold). The song appears on the duo’s seven-song “iTunes Session” EP, which enters Top Country Albums at No. 11 (5,000).
Astute country fans will remember that both Mark Chesnutt and Garth Brooks recorded “Friends” 24 years ago. Chesnutt’s version appears on his 1990 debut album “Too Cold at Home”; although it wasn’t a single, Chesnutt enjoyed five top 10 Hot Country Songs hits from the set, including “Brother Jukebox,” his first of eight No. 1s.
Brooks’ version, meanwhile, from his “No Fences” album, famously spent four weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs in 1990, becoming arguably his signature song. The first six words of the title of Brooks’ new box set, “Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences,” are, of course, from the song’s self-deprecating opening line: “Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots and ruined your black-tie affair …”
Additional reporting by Gary Trust