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"Shania will run the table through the rest of the holidays, while Dixie Chicks, thanks to their TV special, and McGraw were also huge."
——HMV’s Jeff Davidson
GOODBYE, 2002!!!
Nashville Rules, Avril Keeps Sk8ting Along, Norah’s Coming On and We’re Heading Out
Country provided some needed comfort to the retail biz this week. Yep, pardner, after a post-Thanksgiving dip, records are once again moving out of the stores in sizable numbers, especially the twangy ones. Can we get a "hee-haw"?

Santa’s cap looked more like a cowboy hat to retailers, with Mercury Nashville thrush Shania Twain holding at #1 for the fourth straight week, Open Wide/ Columbia/CRG’s Dixie Chicks surging back to #3 (with a remarkable 111% increase) after last week’s primetime TV special and Curb good ole boy Tim McGraw hitching his horse at #4.

HMV’s Jeff Davidson took out his chaw of tobacky and dribbled: "Shania will run the table through the rest of the holidays, while Dixie Chicks, thanks to their TV special, and McGraw were also huge. In fact, I’m so pumped, I’m going to spend my vacation in Branson, MO."

The late Aaliyah’s posthumous Blackground/Universal bow, I Care 4 U, was the top newcomer, entering at #2 with close to 300k in first-week sales.

It was a spectacular week at retail across the board. There were 31 albums over 100k and 37 records in all with double-digit or higher increases, including Rod Stewart’s #18 J Records debut, up 93%, and Norah Jones, whose Blue Note album returned to the Top 10 with a 67% increase.

Added Davidson: "Norah Jones continues to perform, with no end in sight, and Rod Stewart is showing a lotta legs, if you’ll pardon the expression."

Rounding out the Top 10 was Shady/Interscope/UMG Strx’s 8 Mile soundtrack (#5, up 26%), Arista sk8te chanteuse Avril Lavigne (#6, with a 49% increase), UTV’s Now 11 (#7, up 20%), Epic’s Jennifer Lopez (#8, +35%) and RCA’s Elvis Presley package (#9, up 44%).

Other chart newcomers include Epic’s B2K (#11), Arista’s Whitney Houston (#15, with more than 175k sold), Columbia/CRG’s Nas, whose release was moved up to last Friday (#21, with 143k in a mere three days) and the return of Elektra jam-band Phish at #48.

Impressive increases were also registered by Virgin’s Rolling Stones (#25, 55%), Epic’s Good Charlotte (#36, 53%), BNA’s Kenny Chesney (#43, 49%), DreamWorks Nashville’s Toby Keith (#29, 48%), Jive’s Justin Timberlake (#13, 46%), Columbia’s John Mayer (#33, 46%), Fo’ Reel/Universal’s Nelly (#22, 44%), Arista Nashville’s Alan Jackson (#42, 44%), WB’s Faith Hill (#14, 41%) and Arista’s Santana (#24, 41%).

As for next week, who cares? Certainly not us, because we’re outta here…until 2003, that is.

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