Any previous naysayers about Lionel Richie going country may be feeling a little foolish today. The music icon's country duets project, Tuskegee, has soared to the top of the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. It's also No. 1 for a second week on the country albums chart, having sold almost 129,000 copies in the last week -- a sales surge likely due to the huge success of the "ACM Presents: Lionel Richie and Friends in Concert," which was the most-watched show on television last Friday (April 13), with 7.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Total sales are now at almost 423,000, making Tuskegee the best-selling country album so far this year ... and a longtime dream come true for the Alabama native.

"I knew I was going to do a country album one day," Lionel tells The Boot. "But I was just trying to figure out for the life of me, what we were going to do to make it different, unique. Someone said to me, 'Lionel, why don't you do 'Lionel Does Gershwin'?' I thought, I just don't know if I feel comfortable, that's not my thing. But what does feel comfortable to me is 'Lionel Does Lionel.' It started out that I was going to do one, maybe two duets. Then it became a whole album of duets. Then the floodgates opened and it was just, why didn't we think of this 40 years ago? It was perfect, absolutely perfect."

Tuskegee is the living legend's third chart-topping album and his first since 1986's Dancing on the Ceiling. "You cannot beat the feeling of sitting on top of the charts," says Lionel. "I had almost forgotten what it feels like ... It feels great! It is really a very exciting time and I am enjoying the ride."

"With a record like this, you can't take the bow alone," Lionel insists. "You take it with the wonderful talent that came onboard and believed in this project. It is just amazing to have all of the very talented artists, producers and musicians who participated in this. This was one big family reunion, as far as I am concerned. We take the bow together because it was an outstanding group effort."

The musician is also quick to thank the staff of his new record label, Mercury Nashville, who "took my hand and led me in the front door." And most importantly, Lionel is grateful for his sea of fans -- both the new ones he's made through this new country venture and the ones who've been around for four decades. "They are the ones who made this possible," he says. "They are the ones who have stuck around forever with me ... Thank you for allowing me to enjoy what I do for all of these years, and for enjoying what I do. I thank you for being a part of my story."

Lucky for those fans, Lionel is already hinting that Tuskegee: Volume 2 is in the works.

Watch "Lionel Richie's Life and Career"

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