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Veteran Performers, Newcomers Contribute to Country Music Success in 2007

Veteran performers and newcomers contributed to the success of Country music in 2007. Although record sales overall continued to fall as digital downloads increased, several Country acts celebrated multi-million-selling releases. Others made their mark in the touring industry. VOA's Mary Morningstar has more Country music highlights from the past year.

In 2007, the Eagles recorded Long Road Out Of Eden, their first new studio album in 28 years. The album sold three million copies, and produced the Top 10 Country hit "How Long." To show their appreciation to Country radio, the Eagles made their first ever awards show appearance at this year's Country Music Association Awards.

Several chart records were set during the past year. Kenny Chesney had the fastest climb to Number One by taking only eight weeks to reach the top of the singles chart with "Never Wanted Nothing More."

Kenny Chesney is one of four Country stars listed in the 10 top-grossing concert tours of 2007. Kenny's "Flip-Flop Summer Tour" was the fourth biggest money-maker of the year, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill came in at Number 8 and Rascal Flatts placed at Number 10.

In November, Garth Brooks teased his fans by performing nine sold-out shows in Kansas City, Missouri. He retired from touring seven years ago to stay at home with his three young daughters. Garth maintains, however, that he'll return to the road when his youngest child turns 18. Before heading back into retirement, he'll perform five shows in San Diego next month to benefit firefighters and victims of the Southern California wildfires.

Garth Brooks also returned to the top of the Country chart in 2007. "More Than A Memory," from his compilation The Ultimate Hits, became the first song to debut at Number One in the history of the Billboard Country chart.

A total of 25 songs reached Number One in 2007. Three artists made their first ascent to the top of the chart, including Emerson Drive, Big and Rich, and 18-year-old Taylor Swift, who won this year's Country Music Association Horizon Award. Taylor's self-titled debut album produced two Top 5 singles, as well as the Number One hit, "Our Song."

Taylor Swift made history in 2007 as the first female artist in Country music history to write or co-write every song on a million-selling debut album. She's also the youngest Country artist to reach Number One with a self-penned song.

In other news, Country fans mourned the loss of several legends during the past year. They include Del Reeves, Henson Cargill, Boots Randolph, Porter Wagoner and Hank Thompson.

And, speaking of legends, Mel Tillis, Ralph Emery and Vince Gill were this year's inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In addition, Mel Tillis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, which also added Josh Turner and Charlie Daniels as members in 2007.

Carrie Underwood, 24, ended the year with more accolades than any other Country artist. She won 15 industry awards, including three Grammys and the Female Vocalist of the Year honors at both the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards. Carrie's debut album, Some Hearts, reached sales of six million copies and her new release, Carnival Ride, sold two million copies in less than two months.

But, it's 38-year-old Rodney Atkins who dominates Billboard's Top 10 Country songs of 2007. Two hits from his latest album, If You're Going Through Hell, appear on the list. Rodney holds the Number 4 spot with These Are My People, and claims the Number One Country single of the year with a song that was inspired by his 5-year-old son Elijah, Watching You.