Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Kurt Mahoney: Press

For many years now reggae has been one of the more popular styles of music here in Laguna Beach. Bands such as the Rebel Rockers, Common Sense, and World Anthem have enjoyed the support of the local nightclub scene and entertained many.
There is another artist who deserves to be mentioned as being an important factor in the development of the reggae culture here in Laguna, and his name is Kurt Mahoney. Since the late 1980's Kurt has been performing his unique blend of world beat, rock and reggae with such groups as Eyes Of The World, Mo Dn Irie, and more recently Roots Foundation.
Whenever I saw these bands I was always impressed with the quality of his songs, his professional demeanor and his ability to arrange music for large ensembles. But the real treat comes somewhere in the middle of one of these late-night sessions; this is where Kurt starts playing his slide guitar with a passion, taking the audience on fantastic sonic journeys, fusing the mellow stylings of island slide guitar with the psychedelic cool of Jerry Garcia and the blistering energy of Duane Allman. It seems quite possible that he may be the only reggae artist in history to employ the slide guitar to such great effect! It's no wonder he has had the good fortune to play and/or record with such artists as Joe Higgs, Don Carlos, King Sunny Ade', Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, Andrew Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and the Neville Brothers, et al.
So here we are, it's 2008, and Roots Foundation has released their new album "Conscious Revolution" (
which features guests Santa Davis and Ras Michael). Packed with themes of hope, love, positivity, self-awareness and a desire to heal the planet, "Conscious Revolution" is a diverse collection of beautifully crafted songs that provide the backdrop for Kurt's distinctively insightful social commentaries. Songs such as "Sacred Ground", "Let It Grow," "Hemp Nation," and the title track are standouts (and are totally danceable), while tracks like "Teach US How To Love" explore more introspective themes within the context of a well-crafted song.
All in all, Roots Foundation has created an album that can only bolster Laguna's reputation for producing quality reggae bands, and I encourage you to come in to the Sound Spectrum and check it out, buy your own copy, and go see the band live Oct. 4 at the Festival of Arts for the Endangered Planet Symposium.
You may even catch a glimpse of that ole' Laguna mystique that so many have recently come to admire, and which all of us could use a healthy dose of every now and then. To check out all of Kurt's offerings, go to www.cherokeeradio.org
Greg White - Laguna Beach Independent (Sep 15, 2008)
Sensitivity, spirit and inspiration , March 23, 2009
Love, compassion, peace and understanding .... this uplifting and optimistic reggae-infused music is largely the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kurt Mahoney. He and the other musicians demonstrate good familiarity with the danceable genre, and it may partly be because of Mahoney's experience and involvement with the reggae scene since the early 1980s. His own clarion guitars and succinct vocals wrap nicely around solid arrangements that feature tasty saxophone and more. I hear sensitivity, spirit and inspiration in Roots Foundation's music, and that's a necessity for successful reggae and world music. Mahoney's an eclectic California-based musician, and he also has well-balanced albums out that fit more into the acoustic original Americana ("Where the Heart is") and electric country ("Phantom Train") realms too. (Joe Ross, 29 Palms, CA) 4 Stars
Joe Ross - Amazon.com (Mar 23, 2009)
The songs on Roots Foundation's Conscious Revolution sound exactly like classic Jamaican reggae until lead singer Kurt Mahoney opens his mouth. And that's not a bad thing! Midwest-born California resident Mahoney peppers his compositions with home-spun lyrics-such as "Daddy had a hard day at his job today" in a song about child abuse, "Turn Away", and "Frankie is a banker, he's always out of cash", in "Let It Grow", which takes off from a riff that's apparently based on Paul Simon's "Crazy Love". It adds up to an engaging home-grown take on reggae brimming with strong accompaniment.
Bob Tarte - The Beat (Aug 1, 2008)
(4 stars)
California songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Mahoney has some clever lyrics that draw folks into charming songs like "Jimmy Stewart's Wings." His cross-bending genre's subtle instrumental shadings don't always align with his vocal styling, but his original acoustic folk, balladry and blues-flavored narratives offer evocative moments such as when he sings about "The Most Beautiful Girl" or asks "Who's Gonna Be Your Baby." Tapping into the blues, "Workin' On My Attitude" establishes a nice no-frills melodic riff...I commend him for being able to successfully cover a great deal of cross-genre music. Mahoney's low-key telling has introspective feelings that come across like musical correspondence addressed to "Dear Grandpa," "Oh Mama," or "Hey Little Girl." We learn where Kurt Mahoney's heart is .... it's with all those people who have loved, supported, and inspired him during life's inward and outward journeys.
Joe Ross - Amazon.com (Mar 23, 2009)
It's becoming a certified trend-spookily so-that each column I receive one work that perfectly exemplifies the point I was trying to make two columns previous. No single reggae release more perfectly underscores the "Revenge of the 60's" I wrote of in December than ROOTS FOUNDATION'S " SACRED GROUND" (Eyes of the World). All the classic '60s elements are here-the happy-go-lucky (at times purely joyous) attitude of album-opener "World Go Round" had me wishing I had reviewed it two issues ago even before I flipped the cover over to find the twin icons of Bob Marley and Jerry Garcia or noted that three of the seven songs were covers of the Grateful Dead including an incredible 18-minute and 26-second rendition of "Uncle John's Band."
The deep groove bass and drums and picking guitar parts place the disc firmly in reggae's present despite these nods to America (and the world's) past. The almost-seamless meld of the two styles is the disc's charm, along with the bouncy vocals, tasty harmonies, saxophone solos and mix of live and studio recordings. ROOTS FOUNDATION has filtered the spirit of the 60's through the (reggae) sound of the 70's underscoring the natural connection between the two that reggae's fan base has always displayed. In an age of political disenfranchisement, computerized music and Y2K paranoia ROOTS FOUNDATION'S simple message of peace and love is as relevant as a run against the barricades to drop flowers into weapons of war.
Chris Wilson - The Reggae Beat
...Two days later Bunny (Wailer) played the Sun Theatre in Anaheim, and ROOTS FOUNDATION opened. Headed by the irrepressible Kurt Mahoney, his reggae-rock delighted a multitude of local fans. Particularly interesting was Kurt's song "Let It Grow" which I'm tempted to call "King Tubby Ade' Meets Ladysmith Black Simon" for its brilliant mixture of South African, folk, pop and Nigerian vibes!
Roger Steffens - The Beat
Music has been his heart and soul. He was afflicted with the music bug at the age of 8 when the Beatles came onto the scene. They inspired the introverted boy to find his voice by writing poetry. At age 10 he started playing his first instrument, the bass guitar, and by 12 he was forming his first band.Singer/songwriter Kurt Mahoney has made music his life. He moved from the Midwest to Southern California to further his career.
"I've lived in Laguna Beach for 20 years," Mahoney said. "The geography, the vibe, the beautiful location-everything about how beautiful this town is with the mellow vibe and the proximity to San Diego and Los Angeles is why I live here.'
During the mid 1980's Mahoney worked as a solo artist and in duos, performing gigs and recording, using his chops as guitarist, steel-guitarist and bassist with well-known reggae and African artists such as Joe Higgs, Don Carlos, and King Sunny Ade'.
Later Mahoney formed the world beat reggae band Eyes of the World. The band toured with many greats of that genre: Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals and Andrew Tosh.
Choosing th solo road for the early 1990s, by the middle of the decade he was ready to form another band. That's when ROOTS FOUNDATION was founded.
"I was ready and recharged-it was time to form my own band again,"Mahoney said.
ROOTS FOUNDATION consists of Ananias "Thrasher" Chambers on percussion, bassist Paul Janes, and drummer Dave Terry.
The band plays reggae and gets into some world music, such as from Caribbean and African groups. "We mix in the Grateful Dead and some jam music," Mahoney said. "It's another thing very unique to reggae-arrangements of Grateful Dead songs. We use those as jumping points to jam, and it's a whole different dimension."
During a jam, the band might get into the jazz of John Coltrane or Miles Davis before returning to reggae.

'It's fun," Mahoney said. "To me, it separates us from everything, other reggae bands and it definitely separates us from other 'jam' bands."
His philosophy is that reggae is supposed to be conscious music to lift one up and expand horizons.
" It should generally promote consciousness, positivity and awareness," Mahoney said. "So much music these days-rap, even reggae, or what passes itself off as reggae, promotes negativity."
Today's music seems to espouse cheap sex, the degradation of women, bad language and racism.
"It has all these things that have no business being promoted by music," Mahoney said. "It's supposed to be about peace, love, brotherhood and all that good hippie stuff'! That's what we're about."
He explained that with ROOTS FOUNDATION, there's no foul language, that they don't cheapen it, yet it gets people dancing.
"It's like Santana's music that makes you want to go home, make love as well as promote spirituality, social change and social consciousness."
Suzie Harrison - The Coastline News