Money Mark Brand New By Tomorrow

[Brushfire; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: handyman singer-songwriter (jack-of-all-trades)
Others: Beck, Josh Rouse, Jack Johnson

Mark Ramos-Nishita is a name you may not be familiar with. When I first observed the wood-carved boombox on the cover of this album, I didn’t know who he was either. I was too busy hoping the boombox wasn’t hollow. (Crossed my fingers for sturdy woodscrews as well.) Turns out, some years ago, Money Mark was to the Beastie Boys what Billy Preston was to The Beatles. He was doing home repairs for the Beasties in Silverlake, California in the early ’90s and soon became part of their crew. His skill in fixing just about anything was mirrored by his ability to play just about anything. Here, on Brand New By Tomorrow, he handles many of the duties, playing everything from guitar, upright piano, chamberlain strings, and bass to electric harpsichord, celeste, omnichord, Wurlitzer, and the melodica. No screwing around here. No “no sleep till Brookyln.” This is a serious effort.

Money Mark’s been around for a minute (minute meaning an excess of 60 seconds), working, associating, and/or aligning himself with the Dust Brothers, Mo’Wax, and Omar Rodriquez-Lopez of Mars Volta. Don’t allow his diverse credentials to lead you to believe this is a hodgepodge effort, ramshackle from intro to closing. This is an album that has it together — a cohesive sound. Nicely laced sneakers stomping to the beat. True, Money Mark has a typical singer-songwriter vocal presence, but lighthearted lyrics sprinkled with clever one-liners here and there do a sufficient job. The music is mellow — a tone of experience. Despite finding an outlet on Jack Johnson’s label, the music isn’t that stoned-out, Hawaiian, college-dormitory-at-one-in-the-afternoon mellow. Money Mark meanders in obscurity, popping up every now and again to gain a few more fans, broadening his audience slowly so that his talents always come as a surprise to someone.

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