Underwood leads country charge on chart


NEW YORK -- In a Billboard 200 first, three country debuts occupy the top three slots on the chart, led by Carrie Underwood's "Carnival Ride." The 19 Recordings/Arista Nashville set sold 527,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, earning the artist her first No. 1.

The total is a much better sum than the 315,000 that greeted her No. 2 2005 debut "Some Hearts." It's also the best sales week for a female solo country artist since Shania Twain's "Greatest Hits" started with 530,000 in November 2004.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' "Raising Sand" (Rounder) opens at No. 2, selling 112,000. It's the highest-charting album for both as solo artists and Krauss' first time in the top 10.

Country singer Gary Allan's MCA Nashville set "Living Hard" enters at No. 3 with 69,000. It's not his first trip into the top five this year, however: His "Greatest Hits" debuted at No. 5 in March. "Tough All Over," his album from 2005, also achieved a No. 3 entry.

System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian's solo debut, "Elect the Dead" (Serjical Strike/Reprise) also bows with 69,000, a couple hundred short of Allen's sum, at No. 4. The band's last album, 2005's "Hypnotize," bowed at No. 1 with 320,000.

Josh Groban's holiday album "Noel" (143/Reprise) slips from No. 4 to No. 5 with 65,000, a 2% sales increase. Moving 62,000, rock act Coheed & Cambria's "No World for Tomorrow" (Columbia) starts at No. 6, a charting best. The group's 2005 album, "Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV," debuted at No. 7, but moved 84,000 in its first week.

Kid Rock's Top Dog/Atlantic set, "Rock N Roll Jesus," falls from second place to seventh with 61,000 (a 21% drop), while Rascal Flatts' Lyric Street album "Still Feels Good" descends from No. 3 to No. 8 with 57,000 (a decline of 19%).

Rock combo Seether's "Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces" (Wind-Up) bows at No. 9 with 57,000. The band's last studio set, 2005's "Karma and Effect," entered at No. 8 with 82,000. Disney's soundtrack to "High School Musical 2" rounds out the top tier, slipping from No. 7 to No. 10 with 57,000 (a 1% drop).

Neil Young's Reprise set "Chrome Dreams II" drives in at No. 11 with 54,000. Young was in the top 10 earlier this year with "Live at Massey Hall 1971," which bowed at No. 6. His last studio set, 2006's "Living with War," entered at No. 15 with 60,000.

Latin artist Juanes starts at No. 13 with "La Vida ... Es Un Ratico." The Universal Latino album moved 47,000, which bests the No. 33/34,000 start of 2004's "Mi Sangre." Other big chart debuts this week include Hurricane Chris' "51/50 Ratchet" (J) at No. 24 with 26,000, rock act Say Anything's "In Defense of the Genre" (J) at No. 27 with 25,000 and Ryan Adams & the Cardinals' "Follow the Lights" EP (Lost Highway) at No. 40 with 19,000.

Album sales are up 5.2% from last week at 8.34 million units and down 16.8% from the same week in 2006 (10.03 million).