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Friday, February 4, 2011

Mindy Hartman - Speak To Me Now: A Journey

Mindy Hartman - Speak To Me Now: A Journey
2010, Out Of Sight Ministries

You could spend an hour on Mindy Hartman's back story alone.  Blind from birth and bearing the death of a seventeen-year old brother and September 11th within months of each other, Hartman lives a life that might be considered inspirational to some.  Hartman is a blindness educator, orator, natural health advocate and music minister.  The native of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania fell in love with singing at a young age and has performed as a soloist and in ensembles ever since.  Hartman became involved in music ministry through her church and eventually spun off into her own imprint, Out Of Sight Ministries.  In November of 2010, Hartman released her debut album, Speak To Me Now: A Journey.  The album is a collection of inspirational songs ranging from traditional-style hymns to jazz/cabaret numbers full of spirit.

Hartman opens with “In My Mother’s Womb”, Praise music that sounds like a blend of Broadway and baroque.  The blending of piano, harpsichord and minor keys makes for an intriguing sound.  Hartman’s voice is unspectacular but solid in her lower range, but as she moves into the higher notes pitch issues begin to present themselves.  “Speak To Me Now” is a solid, prayerful tune.  The lead vocal is a bit clumsy at times, but the vocal harmonies mostly hide this.  Hartman’s pitch issues are readily apparent here.  “The Master Has Come” is offered in a traditional, mixolydian sound.  The solid, classic style of the hymn is watered down by the less-than-inspired performance.  “How Firm A Foundation” and “Be Thou My Vision” are solid but unremarkable, excepting Hartman’s ongoing struggle with pitch.

“Introspection” changes up the pace with a piano bar/cabaret feel.  Hartman handles the vocal with minimal problem, but the song itself has an awkward, ill-fitting feel.  Message has certainly taken precedence over the music, and the lyrics and arrangement simply don’t seem to work together all the time.  “My Faith Has Found A Resting Place” displays a two-part homophonic vocal harmony style not dissimilar to barbershop singing.  The simple arrangement of the song offers a distinctive hymn-like feel.  Each vocalist is a bit tough on the ears (for pitch) when singing on their own, but their voices blend nicely and minimize such effects.  “Trust And Obey” sticks to harmony vocals throughout and comes off solidly, if less than inspired. “Lord God Why Did You Choose Me” blends gospel, blues and show-tune sounds in a pleasing arrangement.  Unfortunately Hartman simply doesn’t have the voice to carry this tune off.  The song grossly exposes her vocal weaknesses and lack of breath/pitch control.  Hartman gets points for inspiration on this one, but the end product is hard to listen to. 

“He Keeps Me Singing” is the musical nadir of Speak To Me Now: A Journey.  Hartman’s pitch issues here are legion; anything else you could say about the song gets lost in the shuffle.  “Lord Of” is a swaying, sing-song musical prayer.  Mindy Hartman manages to stay solidly in her vocal comfort zone and consequently greatly minimizes issues of pitch and tone.  It’s not a perfect performance, but it’s the best one that appears on the album.  When Hartman stays compact and close to home she has a sweet voice.  The synth/strings over the piano bass are a nice touch.  “Beautiful Beckoning Hands” has a somewhat monotonous cadence but offers solid vocal harmonies as something of a condolence.  Hartman steps to the pulpit with “He’s My All In All”, a blend of sermon and testimony in song, and then closes with a classic refrain in “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, a traditional style hymn that’s compact and perfectly fit for Hartman’s voice.

Mindy Hartman leads an exemplary life.  Hartman takes the dis out of disability every single day, using her talents to make the world around her a better place to live.  While Hartman’s performances may be inspiring, Speak To Me Now: A Journey just doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain.  The songs offered here are often solid, and Hartman’s voice can have a sweet tone at times, pitch issues run rampant through the songs.  Hartman is anything but tone deaf, but lacks the proper breath control and discipline to offer a performance that is gratifying.  These things can be learned, of course, and so there is distinct hope for the Mindy Hartman’s musical and ministerial future, but Speak To Me Now: A Journey is a difficult trip.

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5) 

Learn more about Mindy Hartman at To Me Now: A Journey is available as a CD or Download from

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