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2008 Marks Year of the Newcomers in Country Music

While established artists dominated the charts throughout 2008, many Nashville newcomers also made a major impact on the Country music industry.

Former Hootie and the Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker made his solo debut in Country music in 2008. His single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," reached Number One on the Country chart, making him the first African-American solo artist to top the list since Charley Pride in 1983.

Other successful newcomers to Country music during the past year include Jewel, dance champion Julianne Hough, Jessica Simpson, and this year's Top New Country Artist, Lady Antebellum.

Lady Antebellum is the only Country act nominated for this year's Best New Artist Grammy Award.

Taylor Swift, 19, has four singles on Billboard's Hot Country Songs year-end chart. "Our Song," from Taylor's self-titled debut album, became her longest-running Number One Country hit."Our Song" spent six weeks at the top of the Country chart.

Taylor's second album, Fearless, was released late in the year. Although CD sales continued to fall in 2008, popular artists like Taylor Swift were able to offset some of the decline.

Fearless sold one million copies in the U.S. its first three weeks of release. Taylor's success wasn't only limited to the Country chart. She joins Rascal Flatts, The Eagles, Sugarland and Carrie Underwood in the Top 10 on Billboard's various year-end pop lists.

In 2008, Kenny Chesney won his fourth Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year honor. He now ties Garth Brooks for most wins in that category. Kenny had two albums on the chart in 2008; his million-selling release Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates and Lucky Old Sun, which produced this Number One hit, "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven."

Kenny Chesney's "Poets and Pirates Tour" was the Number One Country outing of 2008. He's ranked at Number 6 on the year's overall list of Top 25 tours. Two other Country artists placed in the Top 10. Rascal Flatts, who performed to nearly one million fans, came in at Number 10, and The Eagles are one position higher at Number 9. In 2008,

The Eagles earned two Country hits from their first album in 28 years. Billboard magazine ranks Long Road Out of Eden as the Number One Country album of the year.

During 2008, the Country community mourned the death of several legends, including Eddy Arnold, Jo Stafford, Dottie Rambo, Jerry Reed and Charlie Walker.

Other Country music news during the past year included the Country Music Hall of Fame inductions of Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, The Statler Brothers, Jimmy Fortune and the late Ernest "Pop" Stoneman.

The CMA Music Festival set a new attendance record with more than a nine percent increase over last year's numbers. And, Carrie Underwood and Craig Morgan became the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. The long-running Country music show announced that it will add a fourth night to its weekly schedule in 2009. Opry Country Classics will showcase classic Country songs performed by Country legends and new artists.

The Number One Country single of 2008 is by James Otto, who earned his first Number One hit this year with the Grammy-nominated single, "Just Got Started Loving You."