Reviewed by Andrew Midgley
It is sad to give such a low rating to an album with the sincerity and backstory of Dusty and Krystal Marshall's 'Beauty In The Struggle'. Dusty's delivery, though, always seems self-consciously enunciated, while the tunes are unmemorable, generic riffs in a minor key, as though in hope that this will communicate gravity. Vocoded sections are an approximation to the current state of the rap game, but even these feel like something from the 2000s; the end of which, coincidentally, was the point when Dusty Marshall found God. "I've been walking on the waves since he saved me back in 2010/Ever since I lost my friends I'm throwing nets and fishing men," Marshall raps on "Deep Blue"; an admission that shows his admirable willingness to sacrifice, but makes him sound like a billy-no-mates in the process. Lead single "My God (ftg Krystal Marshall)" is promoted by a video seemingly ignorant of whiteboy rap parodies as far back as The Offspring's 1998 hit "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)" - complete with shade-wearing, goatee-toting heavies jabbing their forefingers in time to the music behind Marshall's equally dextrous gestures, and gospel-singing mommas twirling their wrists - and this lack of irony stifles any much-needed humour beneath an unnecessary earnestness. Further to this, there is a promise of funk to the LP that is never quite fulfilled, and an unqualified bravado to the lyrics ("saturated in Scripture/seeping into my bloodstream," claims Marshall on "My God") that pales, interest-wise, in comparison with the human tales simmering under the gaudy hip-hop. To those, then: Dusty and Krystal's eldest daughter, Amnesty Noel, was diagnosed with a severe form of spina bifida while still in the womb. On "B.I.T.S. Skit", the voiceover tells us that the Marshalls' "daughter's spine didn't fully form around the L5-S1 vertebrae." Amnesty was born just before Christmas 2014, however, in a condition not so severe as the doctors had feared, albeit with part of her spine exposed. The Marshalls, having been offered the chance to terminate the pregnancy, rejoiced at God's goodness; the doctors were aghast. Add to this many of the Marshalls' other tales of loss and redemption - friends' suicides, Dusty's own struggles with drugs (he was an addict and a dealer) - and it is clear that there is fertile ground for ministry. Perhaps music is not always the best medium for such stories - my mind was drawn to Ryan and Amy Green's ingenious telling of their journey to death with their son Joel's cancer diagnosis in the Numinous published video game 'That Dragon, Cancer' - but it is a start. The Marshalls have a message that God will doubtless powerfully use. They now need to find a style that suits.
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