Entertainment & Arts

Country duo Ward Thomas top UK album chart

Ward Thomas Image copyright Official Chart Company
Image caption The duo were presented with an Number 1 Award by the Official Charts Company

Country duo Ward Thomas have become the first British country act to top the UK album chart.

Cartwheels, their second album, entered the chart at number one - improving on their debut, which peaked at 41.

The band comprises twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, who grew up on a farm in Hampshire.

Inspired by the Dixie Chicks, they started writing in their teens and got a break when their singing teacher sent a demo tape to friends in Nashville.

Their self-titled debut went on to win album of the year at the 2014 British Country Music Awards.

Cartwheels was recorded in Nashville with Bobby Blazier and Chris Rodriguez, who have worked with Wynonna Judd and Shania Twain respectively.

Image caption The duo have been championed by BBC Radio 2

"This is crazy!" said Ward Thomas, on learning they had reached number one. "We were just hoping for Top 40 and then here we are now!

"We literally don't know how to find the words."

The duo's success follows that of The Shires, who became the first British country act to breach the Top 10 last year.

That duo - Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes - also have a new album, My Universe, which is due for release next month.

The rise of country

Country music has long struggled to find a foothold in the UK, with even established acts like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers battling to match their US success.

But the situation has changed in recent years, thanks in part to the support of BBC Radio 2 and the annual Country 2 Country festival which regularly brings some of the genre's biggest stars to the UK.

According to British Phonographic Industry (BPI) figures, country music now represents 2.3% of the total UK album market - its highest level in nine years.

Top five albums
Artist Title
1) Ward Thomas Cartwheels
2) The Carpenters The Nation's Favourite Carpenters Songs
3) Jamie T Trick
4) Barbra Streisand Encore - Movie Partners Sing Broadway
5) Wretch 32 Growing Over Life
Top five singles
Artist Title
1) Chainsmokers feat Halsey Closer
2) DJ Snake feat Justin Bieber Let Me Love You
3) Major Lazer feat Justin Bieber and MØ Cold Water
4) Calum Scott Dancing On My Own
5) Twenty One Pilots Heathens

Ward Thomas's success robs indie star Jamie T of his first number one album, the two acts having been in close competition throughout the week.

Yet Jamie T eventually had to settle for third place, with a new compilation of The Carpenters' greatest hits overtaking his record at the last minute.

Last week's number one, Barbra Streisand's duets album Encore, drops to number four, while Grime star Wretch 32 debuts at number five with his latest record, Growing Over Life.

Other new entries come from The Divine Comedy, whose new album Foreverland enters the chart at seven, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose Familia lands at 12.

New entries

In the singles chart, dance act The Chainsmokers spends a second week at number one with Closer, their collaboration with cult pop singer Halsey.

The song increased its sales week for week, registering 92,000 units this week, compared to 80,000 the week before.

After a summer where the Top 40 largely remained static, there were seven new songs in this week's single chart.

Ariana Grande, Zara Larsson and Digital Farm Animals have all registered debuts with their latest singles.

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