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Fargo singer/guitarist joins Kid Rock for WE Fest show

When Kid Rock plays WE Fest on Friday, he'll likely make a lot of noise. Not only is the rapper-turned-rocker-turned-country balladeer making his regional debut at the country music festival, he'll do so with a little help from a local.

Shannon Curfman, who cut her teeth as a teen blues singer/guitarist in Fargo more than a decade ago, recently joined Kid Rock's band, Twisted Brown Trucker.

"This was such a different opportunity. It's just something I couldn't say no to," says Curfman, who turned 25 Saturday.

Ready for Rock

Curfman got the call a few months ago when Kid Rock was looking for both a backing singer and a rhythm guitarist in his backing group. Members of the band, bassist Aaron Julison (formerly of Grand Forks) and keyboardist Jimmy Bones, played on Curfman's second album, 2007's "Fast Lane Addiction," and knew she was more than proficient at both so they recommended her.

She joined just in time to back Rock when he hosted the CMT Awards in June.

"It's such an easy transition knowing everyone beforehand and knowing a lot of the music," Curfman said last week during a tour break in Boston.

Still, there were some hiccups. Curfman says she was trying too hard to fill someone else's shoes. Rock saw this, took her aside and told her that he hired her to be herself. A request to interview Rock got no response.

"He really does appreciate who's in his band," she says. "What is really cool about playing with Kid is he does so many different kinds of music. Our shows are different every single night."

She says one of the biggest challenges is keeping up with Rock's rotating playlist.

Reviews show that while the WE Fest crowd should anticipate Kid Rock staples like "Cowboy," "Bawitdaba" and "All Summer Long," they shouldn't be surprised when he takes to the turntables for some scratching, or covers classic rock songs like ZZ Top's "La Grange" or Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever."

The WE Fest show is only the second full-length set Curfman will play with Rock, as they've been opening for Bon Jovi. While Rock only played about an hourlong set on that tour, it warmed the Fargo native up to playing in front of the 40-some thousand fans expected for WE Fest.

"It gets to the point with the crowd, you almost can't comprehend how many people are there when it gets over a certain amount," she says. "Everything is 10 times as loud and large. It's pretty cool."

Another cool part for Curfman is sharing the spotlight with Rock on the duet "Picture."

"It's a lot different for me because it's a popular song, one of the biggest pop songs of the last 10 years," she says. "I've never been in the popular music scene at all (laughs). So singing along with a song like that is quite the thrill. It's just neat when you can feel the vibrations under your feet from everyone singing. It's pretty surreal."

WE Fest past

Though she was raised as a blues player, Curfman was well aware of the WE Fest scene. She grew up spending summers around Detroit Lakes, but trying to stay away during WE Fest week.

"That was the week we didn't go into town. That was the week we didn't go into Zorbaz on Friday night because it was just crazy, a total madhouse," she recalls.

So did she ever think she would be playing one of the largest country music festivals in America?

"Most definitely not," she says, laughing.

Now she's looking forward to the event, though she doesn't yet know how much Rock will switch up his standard set for a country crowd. He doesn't let the band in on the plan until a day or two before the show.

"I'm sure he's got all kinds of things up his sleeve," she says.

Curfman says she's heard from "a couple hundred people" who will make a special trip to see her Friday.

Lynda Smith, manager of Marguerite's Music in Moorhead is hoping to be one of those to catch the set. She's known Curfman since the singer was an

11-year-old shopping for guitar gear and getting lessons at Marguerite's.

"We're extremely proud of her," Smith says. "It's fun to see her getting into the big leagues."

Back to the blues?

Moving into the big leagues comes with a price.

In February, Curfman released her third album, "What You're Getting Into," and had a tour planned, but had to scratch that to join Rock on the road.

While she's put the tour on hold, she feels her time in the Twisted Brown Trucker Band will only enhance her own career.

"The biggest thing for me is just the showmanship he has," she says of Kid Rock. "I can't imagine anyone seeing him play and not appreciating it, even if it isn't necessarily the kind of music you listen to. It's such a pleasure to be able to watch him every night."

She's equally as high about Rock's new album, "Born Free," due out Sept. 7, even though the Twisted band didn't record with Rock. Producer Rick Rubin assembled an all-star group featuring singer/guitarist James Hetfield of Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, country singer Martina McBride and rapper T.I. "It's definitely a more mature album," Curfman says. "I can't wait for people to hear it."

While she's still filling orders online through her website, www.shannon, for her own CDs - which she signs before sending - Curfman sees her new job as a working vacation.

"It's a really nice break. I've been the boss since I was 11. There's a lot of pressure that comes along with that and way too much work when you're self-employed," she says. "I've always had an issue being able to balance work hours. With my own record company, I'm still working at 12 or 1 in the morning. Now I don't have to do that."

But isn't she chomping at the bit to get back in the spotlight and play her own tunes?

"Not really," she says with a laugh. "I'm really not trying to look too far ahead. I'm just having a blast being out here."

If you go

* What: WE Fest

* When: Thursday through Saturday

* Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

* Tickets: Range from single-day passes for $59 for a limited time to $1,000 for VIP seats. (800) 493-3378