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The best kept secret in music



If there is one thing that mainstream music needs more of, it’s female rock singers who can actually sing a rock song. I’m not talking about those Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson type singers who do more moaning and carrying on than actual singing. Shannon Curtis is one of those singers that I am talking about, and by fronting Paradigm with her amazing voice, the mainstream better get ready for a kick in the ass.

With that being said, Paradigm is a pretty straight forward pop/rock band with a radio friendly sound and a solid guitar driven groove. This is how a rock band is supposed to sound. I couldn’t find one song on this album that I didn’t enjoy listening to. That is very rare in today’s market of independent bands. Standing In Line is one of those albums that stands up on it’s own. The music speaks for itself. The songs are passionate, professionally written, intelligent, and at times, heartfelt. It’s easy to see that this album was written from life experience and real emotion. That’s always something I look for, and that’s what I got here. Paradigm is definitely a band worth checking out for those of you who are looking for a true to form, straight ahead pop/rock band with something to offer with their music.

The Rundown
Lyrics/Songwriting: 4 stars
Production Quality: 5 stars
Musicianship: 4 stars
Originality: 3 stars
Overall: 4 stars - Michael Allison

"West Coast Performer"

You heard it here first. Paradigm is going to be huge. They've got the gimmick, the talent, and the whimsy. Shannon Curtis, the lead singer, is the very pretty wife of a preacher man who sounds like Pat Benatar and the Fisher-Price Little People standing in line on their CD cover. The Pat Benatar similarity is eerie actually. Before you even hear her voice during the intro to the first song, you are sure a lady wearing a headband is going to jump through the wall belting out, “Love is a Battlefield.” Then Curtis' voice starts, strong and beautiful, never nasal or melismatic, although it does sound best when she keeps it at a lower pitch such as on the hit-single-written-all-over-it-standout song, “Trying to Live,” where the driving guitars are nicely contrasted with her mellow vocal stylings. She then belts out the chorus, but it still works, bringing to mind Heart. And the band's smart. In one of the more literary turns of lyrical phrase she sings, “I can't forget, I can't forgive / Running from my memories like Hugo's fugitive.” At one point they even fold the word “discerning” into a lyric. They don't need to rely as much on guitar licks and so many repetitions of the chorus as they do, but such middle of the road tactics do help guarantee success, and these guys are going to be huge. The band's songwriting is strong, and much like their peers Cake, they can do a mean cover. On this album, it's a terrific interpretation of Paul Simon's “Hazy Shade of Winter” where Paradigm finds that elusive balance between paying homage while lending enough of a creative interpretation to make it worth listening to a cover. The final song, “Jimmy Williams,” is a wry, witty character sketch of a song, in which both the lyrics and Curtis' voice are reminiscent of early Dar Williams (“Swears it's a diamond ring / But if he wears it too long, his fingers turn green / Thinks he can croon like Sting / But he's deaf in one ear and flat when he sings / He brags about his new car / He lives in LA, so he thinks he's a star / Struts like a ladies' man / But he's really a Star Trek Fan”). Now, for the wife of a preacher man part. Many of the songs have a Christian slant, and they are careful with their phrasing as so many contemporary Christian bands hoping for crossover are. The man above is referred to obliquely as “you” and “heaven” could mean a couple different things. But Paradigm is savvy, they don't proselytize and they are careful to end on a light note. - Sherry Sly

"Sacramento News and Review"

The mainstream alt-rock of Paradigm may be just what record companies are looking for...

Band sends demo. Record label listens, calls back, offers contract.

Welcome to the music-biz version of that old Hollywood tale in which a tight-sweatered Lana Turner sits on a stool in Schwab’s Drugstore, sipping a soda, waiting to be discovered. And, now that the process of how to go from zero to top of the pops has been precisely demystified in such books as Donald S. Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business, virtually anyone with decent songs and a desire to succeed can make a run at the charts.

Take Paradigm, a local quintet whose members are mostly in their late 20s, formed in Stockton in December 1998 by singer Shannon Curtis and guitarist Steve Stratton. After relocating--first to Roseville, then to Sacramento--Paradigm started on that long haul upward from obscurity to recognition. First came the local gigs, then the demo recordings, then the Web site ( with links to downloadable tracks at, then the demos sent out in the mail and the hopes that someone at a record label might notice.

"We got interest," says Curtis, who co-writes most of Paradigm's material with Stratton. "Everyone we sent it to said, ‘Yeah, we want to work with you.' "

However, according to Curtis, the intensity of the response caught her and her bandmates a bit off-guard. "In the last couple of weeks," she continues in a voice that betrays more surprise than braggadocio, "we've been getting a lot of phone calls--like, random people that want to shop us to labels or pass us on to other people in the industry. So it's like, maybe we shouldn't spend thousands of dollars [laughs] right now of our own money; maybe we should make a good-sounding recording, as best as we can do it, and kind of play the cards that seem to be making their way into our hand right now."

So why Paradigm, and not countless other bands toiling in practice spaces around town? For starters, there's Curtis' voice: Yes, it has that warm, familiar graininess that you'll find in dozens of female singer-songwriters from the post-Jewel school of the sweetly earnest. In a conservative media environment where pre-tested products have an edge over anything from the avant-garde, however, that's a plus, not a minus. Add the cross-picked electric guitar lines, which frame Curtis' voice with a heartland texture that lends Paradigm's music a folk-ish cast at times, and you have something that sits decidedly in the mainstream of what, ironically, gets called "alternative" rock today.

but mostly, the secret to why Paradigm might stir up any large interest outside Sacramento lies in its songs. Take "You Are," the song that leads off the band's most recent demo. Its "you loved me before I loved you" theme might seem, on first listen, to be directed toward some prescient paramour. Who might that be? How about a certain Jewish carpenter who lived, oh, 2,000 years ago?

Curtis, whose husband is a pastor in the Covenant denomination, might be writing from a Christian perspective, but she'd rather her band didn't get pigeonholed as a contemporary Christian act. "The people who started the group had considered going in that direction," she explains, "but we did a lot of soul-searching and decided that that's not what we want to be doing. We don't want to limit the scope of where we think our music can go. And so we decided that the best place for us to be is in the quote-unquote mainstream music scene."

Still, if current charts are any barometer, that mainstream is now defined by such acts as Creed, essentially a cleaned-up Pearl Jam with New Testament flavoring, whose newest album was this past holiday season's blockbuster. And any record company talent scout anxious to hang on to a job might do well by signing such a dead-on mainstream act as Paradigm.

Is Curtis ready? "We're really wanting to take this as far as it can go," she says. - Jackson Griffith


Thirty Stories High - June 2005 release, single "Heaven" was one of 15 rock finalists in the 2004 International Songwriting Competition

Standing In Line - Singles "Last Night" and "If Only" were added to over 80 college radio stations in the winter of 2002. Sold 3000 copies while touring 100+ college campuses nationally


Feeling a bit camera shy


This is the sound of things coming together. Well, truthfully, it’s not. It’s the sound of someone typing. Hoping to come up with the right descriptions and exaggerations to make Paradigm’s bio stand out. I could trot out music magazine adjectives: earnest, heartfelt, passionate, professional, moving, authentic. But the thing about adjectives in band bios is that you can’t trust that they’re true. Band bios are tricky things. On one hand, you’re reading it, so you believe that it has something to offer. And by the same token, we’ve written one. We believe that it can help. And while all that’s true, you can’t believe everything you read and we shouldn’t rely on this bio to do a thing for us.

There. We’ve said it. It’s good to be honest with each other. But where does that leave us?

Ideally, you should listen to the album. See them live. Tell me it’s not true. It would do a lot more for you than reading these words. But if we’ve got to start with words, we might as well trust each other, at least a little. There isn’t a better place to start.

Back to that sound – the sound of things coming together. That’s Paradigm’s latest record: Thirty Stories High. Paradigm’s had it all working for years now, that’s nothing new. Fronted by a female vocalist on par with anyone in the industry, and with hooks and melodies to spare, they’ve been playing songs the way you’re hearing them on Thirty Stories High for years. Think Gwen Stefani on a first date with a more muscular Coldplay. Their previous release, Standing In Line, has sold 3,000 copies, received airplay on over 60 college radio stations, as well as Sacramento’s KWOD-FM 106.5, and been supported by a tour that’s covered 19 states. They’ve played shows with Maroon 5 and John Mayer. Their talent, songs, and dedication are nothing new. What was new was the commitment to make, and completion of, a first-rate record from a production standpoint.

To that end, Paradigm tapped producer-engineer Joe Zook (who has previously recorded Anna Nalick, Marc Broussard, Remy Zero) to come alongside them in the process. “Joe’s vision massaged our songs from ‘good’ to ‘undeniable,’” says singer Shannon Curtis. “He came with fresh perspective on the music and was able to draw out the best in each of us in the studio. My experience with him was amazing – I felt challenged and rewarded by what we created.”

The quality of the performances and songs on Thirty Stories High isn’t a revelation or surprise, so much as it is a release – not so much a new start, as it is a culmination. The care and dedication that’s been in years of rehearsals, songwriting, and touring was coming together in front of their eyes – their open soaring choruses, layered guitars, and driving energy had been realized on a circular piece of plastic 1/16 of an inch thick for anyone to hear.

While Thirty Stories High is a beautiful record and a nice piece of production, it also isn’t a sham. They’ll back up every note, chord, and beat on that record and prove it night after night on the road because it’s what they love to do, just like they have been for years. Believe it. Listen to the album. See them live. Tell me it’s not true. And get in while the gettin’s good. Sooner or later, somebody’s going to realize what’s here. It might as well be you.