Harrison Fontenot, The Harrison Fontenot Cajun Collection (Swallow Records)

The name Harrison Fontenot may not be a regular topic of conversation among Cajun music fans beyond Acadiana, but nonetheless this 26-track posthumous collection will likely bring more notoriety to one of the genre’s colorful and regionally beloved figures. By all accounts, Fontenot (1934-2011) was an incredibly interesting individual, a crop duster, a talented accordionist/vocalist, and accordion builder (Imperial). He fronted various bands and recorded several 45s between 1961 and 1983, all of which make their full-length debut here.

harrisonfontenotMany of these selections will make you laugh when you recognize the melody. “Beverly Hillbillies” is recast as “Mamou Hillbillies,” Tex Williams’ “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” becomes “Fume, fume, fume” and The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira” is Cajunized as “Clotilla.” He even modifies “Wabash Cannon Ball” to include locales like Basile (much to the delight of his listeners) and makes his accordion honk like a train whistle towards the end. Also featured in this collection is Fontenot’s first hit “Cajun Twist,” a version of Chubby Checkers’ “The Twist.” It seems there wasn’t anything Fontenot couldn’t play on his loud little box.

While much of this collection focuses on Fontenot’s novelty side, he also has a poignant side, as evidenced by “Lonesome Soldier Waltz.” He cut his own version, “Une Histoire Triste,” of the Cajun weeper “J’ai Passé Devant Ta Porte” by adding a recitation of the maudlin story line for an even greater punch to the heart. No doubt Fontenot was cut from a different cloth than his contemporaries. It’s one that still wears well today for connoisseurs of the unvarnished, rough-and-tumble Cajun sound.