Underwood tops '06 country charts

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NASHVILLE - Carrie Underwood has proved plenty as 2006 draws to a close. In November, the 2005 "American Idol" champ surprised fans and the industry by winning the Country Music Assn.'s female vocalist award.

Now, Underwood's "Some Hearts" ends the year as the top album on the year-end Top Billboard 200 Albums - Female and Top Country Albums recaps.

She also claims the No. 2 spot on the Top Country Album Artists recap behind Rascal Flatts, whose song "Bless the Broken Road" she famously performed during her run for the "American Idol" crown.

In addition, her Grammy-nominated hit "Jesus, Take the Wheel" is the No. 5 title on the Hot Country Songs chart, and she is No. 3 on the Hot Country Songs Artists recap behind Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts.

Add those achievements together and it's apparent why Underwood is the No. 1 performer on the Top Country Artists-Female and Top New Country Artists recaps.

Meanwhile, Chesney takes the No. 1 spot on Top Country Artists-Male, replacing last year's winner, Toby Keith, who remains relevant at No. 2.

Chesney's album "The Road and the Radio" placed No. 8 on the year-end Billboard 200 chart and No. 3 on the year-end Top Country Albums tally. His concert album "LIVE: Live Those Songs Again" gives him a second spot at No. 43 on Top Country Albums.

On the airplay side, "Summertime" is the No. 3 title on the Hot Country Songs tally, and Chesney placed two other titles in the top 50 on that recap.

As for Rascal Flatts, the trio not only has the No. 4 album on the year-end Billboard 200 with "Me and My Gang," it also has two on the Top Country Albums year-end chart: "Me and My Gang" at No. 2 and "Feels Like Today" at No. 6. Their combined performances place Rascal Flatts at No. 1 on Top Country Album Artists.

On the singles front, the band places three titles on Hot Country Songs.

Combining airplay and sales, Rascal Flatts is the No. 1 act on the Top Country Artists-Duo/Group recap for 2006.

Underwood wasn't the only successful newcomer in 2006. Rodney Atkins scored the No. 1 title on the Hot Country Songs chart with "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)," which spent four weeks at No. 1.

Based on sales and airplay info, Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp -- a duo otherwise known as the Wreckers -- placed second to Underwood in the Top New Country Artists category. Their single "Leave the Pieces" finished No. 8 on the Hot Country Songs recap.

Despite their noticeable and much discussed absence from country radio, the Dixie Chicks still managed to score the No. 5 title on Top Country Albums with "Taking the Long Way."

They were also the No. 6 group on Top Country Album Artists, just behind their old nemesis Toby Keith. "Taking the Long Way" was the No. 1 title on Top Internet Albums for 2006, and it finished at No. 16 on The Billboard 200 Albums recap.

Meanwhile, two country acts lead the Top Pop Catalog Albums recap: Johnny Cash and Tim McGraw.
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