After a decade-long sabbatical (circa 1963-1973), Chicago blues pianist Willie Mabon (piano/vocal/harmonica) resurfaced in the early to mid-'70s. Cold Chilly Woman (1973) contains post-retirement sides, recorded in (of all places) Bordeaux, France, circa December of 1972. The 2003 import CD version doubles the original seven-song release, boasting eight previously unavailable tunes. Mabon is presented accompanying himself on piano and harmonica as well as in a trio setting, backed by Emmett Sutton (bass) and Bill Warren (drums). The leader is also credited on 13 of the 15 new selections. "'Round for You" sports a bopping ensemble arrangement that Sutton and Warren eagerly jump into. They support Maybon's refined and stylish piano vamps, maximizing the phrasing with their own flourishes. A similar approach fills out the gritty 12-bar shouter "Guilty Blues," as Mabon's harmonica interjections link the verses. The cover of Brother Ray Charles' "Mary-Ann" is given a rousing workout and may be the best example of the combo in full flight. Arguably, the real meat of these sessions is on Mabon's solos, such as the title track, "Cold Chilly Woman," recalling the authentic Chicago blues stylings that he became known for in the '50s. Although the melody is undeniably simple, he cranks things up a notch, sporting tasty piano licks that vacillate from a rather strident accompaniment to an otherwise amiable delivery. "Michelle" is an R&B-flavored ballad that allows Mabon's playing to take on a percussive feel, helping to augment the rhythm. "Why Did It Happen to Me" is of particular note, as it stands out for Mabon's spoken vocals, sustained by his barrelhouse ivories and once again demonstrating an impressive Chicago and Delta vibe. Interested parties are encouraged to give Cold Chilly Woman a spin, especially considering the additional cuts included on the CD.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer