Chicks Hold Off Avril

Three weeks on top for country trio

No big surprises at the top of the charts this week, as the unchallenged Dixie Chicks managed to sell another 214,000 copies of Home, according to SoundScan, to handily hold onto Number One for the third straight week. But a cluster of summer releases are duking it out for an opportunity to jump into the top slot, should the Chicks' sales start to falter. Avril Lavigne's Let Go crept one slot closer to Number One, in the second spot, with sales of 123,000. Lavigne mustered 1,000 copies more than Eminem's The Eminem Show, and only 2,000 more than Nelly's Nellyville, as the trio of high-profile summer releases try to keep their legs just long enough to enjoy the sweep that is fall holiday shopping.

The rest of the chart doesn't offer a lot of light. Aside from the top four albums, no release is spitting distance from six-figure sales. Toby Keith's Unleashed bounded from Number Eleven to Number Five with sales of 69,000, but most sales were moving south. And strong debuts were few. Weak sales by flagship releases this year have opened the charts up to some unlikely chart visitors. Wedged in between albums by Pink and Trick Daddy is one of the year's oddest chart entries, a pair of releases by gospel institution Bill Gaither -- Let Freedom Ring and God Bless America -- both of which were recorded with wife Gloria and their Homecoming friends at New York City's Carnegie Hall. The two-CD sets (which also contain VHS/DVD components and retail for a hefty $60) still managed to sell 39,000 and 36,000 copies, respectively.

Crossover country singer Rebecca Howard offered the week's next highest debut with her second album, Forgive, which landed at Number Thirty-one with sales of 26,000. And Ani DiFranco continues to roll out the releases -- this time the two-CD live album So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter -- and her fans continue to snap up the indie releases. So Much Shouting moved 25,500 copies, at Number Thirty-four.

Next week is anybody's guess. The Chicks' Home is still selling strong, but it might be losing just enough steam for Lavigne, Eminem or Nelly to squeeze back in up top. And Disturbed's Believe arrived in stores this week with a shot for a Top Ten first week splash.

This week's Top Ten: the Dixie Chicks' Home; Avril Lavigne's Let Go; Eminem's The Eminem Show; Nelly's Nellyville; Toby Keith's Unleashed; Bruce Springsteen's The Rising; Norah Jones' Come Away With Me; Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head; Clupse's Lord Willin'; and James Taylor's October Road.