Australia Jones “Honeybee” Neal: A Powerful New Female Voice in the Mississippi Blues

I am not sure how my friend Sherena Boyce became aware of Australia Jones “Honeybee” Neal, but at some point a couple of years ago, she began to tell me of this female blues artist who was kin to the late Paul “Wine” Jones and who sounded something like Jessie Mae Hemphill. Since that time, we had wanted to help her market and promote herself as an artist, but the pandemic got in the way. Finally, here in April 2021, with the worst of the pandemic seemingly subsiding, we set up a time for her to come to Clarksdale so we could shoot still photos and video footage of her that we hope will enable her to gain notice and get more live performances.

“Honeybee,” as she likes to be called, lives at Indianola, in the Delta, but her guitar style more resembles the Hill Country style of blues than that of the Delta. She is furthermore a traditionalist, and has avoided the influence of most modern blues; her repertoire consists of old, traditional lyrics like “Baby, Please Don’t Go” or “Catfish Blues.” Her appearance should be welcomed at a time when most blues is of the Southern soul variety, and where female blues artists are few and far between outside of Southern soul.

Sean “Bad” Apple, blues musician and entrepreneur extraordinaire in Clarksdale was gracious enough to provide the use of his new club, the Bad Apple Blues Club, for our video and photo session on a Saturday afternoon before a small crowd of people who were in Clarksdale for the full week before Juke Joint Festival. His club, in the former Club 2000 building on Issaquena Avenue, has something of the authentic juke atmosphere of Red’s, but if the color scheme of Red’s revolves around red, Apple’s club revolves around blue. The space is tiny, but the atmosphere is warm and convivial. As for Australia Jones “Honeybee” Neal, she is a new voice of Mississippi blues that we will be hearing about for some time to come.

Carlos Elliot Jr (@CarlosElliotJr) and the Cornlickers Album Release Party at Red’s Juke Joint @VisitClarksdale #jukejointfest

Carlos Elliot Jr. is from Colombia, but on a visit to Clarksdale, he became aware of the music of people like R. L. Burnside and Jessie Mae Hemphill. Since then, he has amazed audiences all over the world with his unique style of blues, and last night, at the iconic Red’s Juke Joint in Clarksdale, he celebrated the release of a new CD with his band The Cornlickers, to a standing-room-only crowd that spilled out into Sunflower Avenue despite the cold weather. Red’s is the real deal blues experience, with big oil drums cookers of barbecue smoking outside, and it is a must-visit experience during Juke Joint Festival.

Juke Joint Festival 2011/Africa In April 2011

This weekend has been a busy one, with Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival, and Africa In April, Hot Wing Festival and the Dub Car Show in Memphis. I couldn’t figure out which ones I wanted to do, so I went to Clarksdale and then back to Memphis to catch the tail end of Africa in April’s first day.