When musician Tim Sheffield created the character of Clem Chesterfield a few years ago to sing the collection of country-tinged songs he’d written, he thought his whisky-sippin’, bullwhip-snappin’ alter ego would hit the trail after the record was finished.
“For me, that was a one-off,” Sheffield said of 2017’s “The Chronicles of Clem Chesterfield.”
“Clem wasn’t sticking around.”
But, as it turned out, he did. And now Sheffield’s “alt-country slacker” persona is releasing a followup record, the eight-track “Of Lures & Love,” on Saturday.
On this record, he’s backed by the La-Z-Boy Recliners, a band born from the long-running Royal (Tavern) Jam open mic on Thursday nights. It was through jamming with the band — Damien Van Johnson, Partick Aaron, Al Duquette, Rocky Roberts, Willy Plaxton and Gary LaVallee — that many of the songs on the new record first started to take shape, he said.
“The next logical thing was to get it down in a recording,” Sheffield said.
He feels the character of Clem has endured, in part, because of the band’s fun live shows.
“It’s infectious to sit and get swept up in it — a couple of whiskies doesn’t hurt — and then you’re stomping and toe-tapping and next thing you know you’re swinging your girl around on the dance floor,” said Sheffield, er, Chesterfield, who outfits himself in one of his many cowboy hats and sequined shirts before hitting the stage.
While his country music persona may be made up, the music behind it is real, he insists.
“It’s been great. I like to entertain. I like to dress up. But it’s not fake,” Sheffield said. “I learned to play country music from my dad when I was a kid.”
His father Ron’s band would play at square dances and in bars in towns around the area back in the 1950s. He taught his sons how to play guitar and songs by the likes of Hank Snow, Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers.
“He was always teaching us the songs of the day,” Sheffield said. “All three chords and the truth, you know?”
Still, when he ventured out to form his own band, Sheffield gravitated to other genres, mainly rock, rather than country. It wasn’t until the Clem persona was created five years ago or so that he returned to his roots.
“I was also hearing Carl Perkins, hearing Elvis Presley — these guys were supposed to be doing country — and Johnny Cash. These guys got drummers and that stuff sounds pretty slick. That sounds like rock ’n’ roll to me. So I don’t think I ever really strayed too far,” he said. “I got into the funk and the reggae and that kind of stuff, but if you listen to ‘Of Lures & Love,’ every song has a reference to it.”
And it was his upbringing that he learned about “hillbilly artists” like Grandpa Jones, who, like him, also assumed an onstage persona.
“I’ve always been a performer and needed to express myself that way musically, and so having Clem available was kind of one of those things that stuck out that you can be this person and then you can go home and not be this person,” Sheffield said.
While he, like other musicians, couldn’t perform in front of audiences during the pandemic, Sheffield cultivated the Clem personality on social media and by performing solo shows on Friday nights and hosting his own children’s show, Clem’s Kids’ Club, during the day. He’s hopeful that he’ll be able to have an outdoor, physically distanced record release show on Wolfe Island in a couple of weeks if the province’s reopening plan allows it.
In the meantime, it doesn’t look like Clem is going away anytime soon, Sheffield said.
“I think it allows me to get away with a little bit,” he said of his happy-go-lucky alter ego.
“Clem allows me to snap a bullwhip and have a little bit of whisky while we’re having fun and making good music, you know?”