It took almost a decade for Willie Nelson's first-ever reggae album to be released, but he's enjoying a strong hit as Countryman debuts at No. 6 on this week's Billboard country albums chart.
Although Countryman hasn't been met by universal critical acclaim, the buzz surrounding the project has been particularly strong because of Nelson's willingness to explore new musical horizons in Jamaican music. Admittedly, part of the attraction probably involves his well-publicized affinity for Jamaica's top cash crop. Nelson maintains the album's Jamaican roll by offering slightly different versions of the cover artwork. Depending on the retailer, the CD booklet depicts either a palm tree or a marijuana leaf.
Turning to grass of a different sort, the Del McCoury Band debut at No. 59 on the country albums list with The Company We Keep but land at No. 2 on Billboard's bluegrass chart -- just behind Alison Krauss & Union Station's Lonely Runs Both Ways. Nelson and McCoury have the only new albums debuting on the country and bluegrass charts this week.
Elsewhere on the country charts, little has changed at the uppermost levels as George Strait continues a three-week hold on the albums list, and Toby Keith spends a second week atop the singles chart.
With Strait's Somewhere Down in Texas at No. 1, it's still musical chairs in second through fifth place where Rascal Flatts' Feels Like Today is followed by Keith's Honkytonk University, Keith Urban's Be Here and Sugarland's Twice the Speed of Life. With Nelson enjoying a strong hit at No. 6, he's trailed by Keith's Greatest Hits 2, which slips one notch to No. 7. Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party climbs two spaces to land at No. 8, Kenny Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down falls one notch to No. 9 and Big & Rich's Horse of a Different Color drops to No. 10 from No. 7.
The country singles chart is even less eventful as the Top 5 songs remain the same for a second week. Keith is still good at No. 1 with "As Good as I Once Was," followed by Rascal Flatts' "Fast Cars and Freedom," Sugarland's "Something More," Faith Hill's "Mississippi Girl" and Strait's "You'll Be There." Brooks & Dunn climb two rungs to No. 6 with "Play Something Country" as Urban's recent No. 1, "Making Memories of Us," makes its descent to No. 7. Moving to a liquid theme, Brad Paisley's "Alcohol" rises to No. 8, and Chesney's "Keg in the Closet" loses a little pressure by dropping to No. 9. SHeDAISY break into the Top 10 with "Don't Worry 'Bout a Thing."
Urban has the highest-charting debut of the week with "Better Life," a song he wrote with pop tunesmith Richard Marx. Other new arrivals include Jessica Andrews' "Summer Girl" (No. 46), Dierks Bentley's "Come a Little Closer" (No. 49) and Keith Anderson's "XXL" (No. 50).