October 22, 2008 at 11:29 PM EDT

Kenny Chesney can afford some more trips to the Caribbean. His largely sailing-themed new album, Lucky Old Sun, easily debuted on top of this week’s Nielsen SoundScan chart with sales of 176,000. However, that’s less than half of the 387,000 copies that his previous disc, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, sold in its first week, 13 months ago. Four of Chesney’s last five studio albums had debuted with at least 300K, so it remains to be seen whether this more modest bow is a blip for Chesney or a sign that he’s subject  to the diminished expectations facing just about every other superstar. Taking a cue from Sugarland’s recent Love on the Inside project, Chesney released a deluxe version of his album a week before issuing the standard edition for a few dollars less; sales of both will be merged for next week’s tally.

The biggest surprise on this week’s chart is how well Ray LaMontagne performed: His third album, Gossip in the Grain, debuted at No. 3 with a powerful bow of 60,000 copies, far more than adult-oriented singer/songwriters can usually muster in a week. (His previous best week produced sales of just 28,000.) LaMontagne’s label pointed out that he had the No. 1 digital download album for the week, with more than half of his units — 32,000 — coming in non-physical form. Attracting a similar demographic, Lucinda Williams also did nicely, coming in at No. 9 with sales of 35,000 for A Little Honey, her hardest rocking and most high-spirited album to date. Keane came in at No. 7 with 43,000 sold of Perfect Symmetry. Chesney wasn’t the sole country newcomer on the chart: Riding on his coattails a bit, perhaps, Billy Currington’s Little Bit of Everything debuted at No. 13 with 25,000 units.

Over on SoundScan’s digital songs chart, Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” and T.I.’s “Live Your Life” continued to hold down the two top spots, neck and neck with 201,000 and 198,000 downloads, respectively. Coming in a strong third was a new Taylor Swift single, “Fearless,” the title track from her forthcoming November  release; it bowed with 162,000. Other new entries included T-Pain’s “Freeze” at No. 15 (60,000 downloads), 50 Cent’s “Get Up” at No. 23 (44,000), Ray LaMontagne’s “You are the Best Thing” at No. 52 (23,000), and Fall Out Boy’s “What a Catch,  Donnie” at No. 53 (23,000).

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