There seems to be an unwritten rule when it comes to music, whether in the UK or certain parts of Europe that if one’s chosen career path is of a certain genre, then one has to continue along that chosen path and not digress. Such is the debate currently surrounding Tone Damli’s temporary decision to trade genres from pop music to a more traditional folk sound just in time for the seasonal Christmas rush. The album causing all of the commotion is ‘Di Første Jul’ (‘Your First Christmas’), which happens to be Tone Damli’s first attempt at a Christmas album and one that relies on more traditional songs, as well as lesser known seasonal compositions, personally handpicked by the Norwegian songstress herself. The primary beef with this particular album, from various sections of the Norwegian music press, seems to be the already mentioned trading of genres, whereby a pop artist cannot be taken seriously if attempting anything remotely highbrow as with ‘Di Første Jul’. In addition, there seems to be a few concerns regarding Damli’s decision to bend the rules slightly, by incorporating a specific regional dialect to interpret the songs selected and thereby change some of the texts in order to create a more personal album that is closer to her own heart. While not wishing to enter such a debate – although the first point regarding certain pop celebrities being dismissed when trying their luck at other musical genres riles somewhat – the point to address here is that ‘Di Første Jul’ is actually a good album regardless of past creative endeavours or exchanges of language usage. Getting down to business, ‘Di Første Jul’ is constructed of some fine qualities; namely the delightful vocals of Tone Damli providing the sweetest of touches to the album’s title track and other noteworthy additions as ‘Vi Tenner Våre Lykter’, but also fine musicianship via an assortment of roots instrumentation providing a genuine earthy feel overall, and one that often remains understated. The opening daybreak of ‘Luciasang’, exemplified by its steel strings entrance, is simply glorious, as it then proceeds to go about its business in what sounds like an unfussy manner, when actually there is much detail between its layers with various instruments combining to great effect. The introspective atmosphere given to ‘Snø’ sounds more suited to a rain soaked evening where the car’s wipers are working overtime on the long drive home, but fortunately you’ve got Bruce Springsteen sitting alongside for company. The liner notes for this album release hint at one or two songs containing a less festive tone, but this is part of the appeal of ‘Di Første Jul’ as it’s a Christmas album with a difference as you will hear the odd country twang or the mood can be a tad sombre (‘Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker’). However, all these aspects are to be applauded considering the nature of this album release, and one that is far preferable to hearing Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ for the umpteenth time! With Espen Lind providing quality control behind the production desk, the entire blend of this seasonal effort sits perfectly as it considers a variety of emotions which, quite frankly, reflect the shades of colour and light leading up to this particular season. On the evidence of ‘Di Første Jul’, it would seem that pop stars really can operate within different musical genres.