Nashville veteran Chris Stapleton released Traveller, an immensely solid collection of traditionalist country songs, way back in May. It debuted at #14, moving 27,000 units in its first week, and quickly descended the Billboard 200 as non-blockbuster albums are wont to do. But last Wednesday the CMAs went out of their way to anoint Stapleton, giving him Album Of The Year, Best New Artist, and Male Vocalist Of The Year and matching him with Justin Timberlake for a star-making duet.
The country listeners of America responded in kind: Billboard reports that Traveller tallied a whopping 177,000 equivalent units last week (153,000 in pure album sales) and will re-enter the chart at #1 six months after its initial release. Traveller thus becomes the first country debut album to hit #1 since American Idol winner Scotty McCreery entered on top in 2011. Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” also sold 131,000 downloads and will place at #2 on the Digital Songs chart, which should position it for a strong showing on this week’s Hot 100. Finally, with Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller holding at #2 and Eric Church’s surprise-released Mr. Misunderstood beginning at #3, country artists account for the top three albums in America. The CMAs are a powerful institution.