Category: Reviews

25 Years Ago: Piet Botha released ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter

Piet Botha: 'n Suitcase Vol Winter
Piet Botha – ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter

Tracks:

  1. Donkermaan [4.27]
  2. Sien Jou Weer [4.02]
  3. Marilyn Monroe [3.09]
  4. Suitcase Vol Winter [4.21]
  5. Van Tonder [4.35]
  6. Die Kind [4.37]
  7. Goeienag Generaal [4.08]
  8. Klein Bietjie Reën [4.37]
  9. In Die Transvaal [4.01]
  10. Staan Saam Burgers [4.21]
  11. Gipsy In Jou Oë [3.59] vocals by Koos Kombuis
  12. Kom Huistoe [3.58]

All songs composed by Piet Botha except ‘In Die Transvaal’ (Valiant Swart) and ‘Gipsy In Jou Oë’ (Piet Botha/Koos Kombuis)

Musicians:

Piet Botha: vocals, guitars, harmonica, piano
Jorik Pienaar: drums
Jason Phillips: bass
Johnathan Martin: guitars, cellos and vocals

Supported by:

Valiant Swart: guitar, vocals
Koos Kombuis: vocals
Brenda Pieterse: vocals

Release information:
1st October 1997, Wildebeest Records, WILD 005
2009, Independent, JHCD002, remastered by Lanie van der Walt in April 2009

iTunes

Comments:
by Brian Currin

Biting Afrikaans commentary with the musical style of Eric Clapton, Mark Knopler, Chris Rea, etc. ‘Goeie Nag Generaal’ is a brilliant hard-rock song about dying for your country but for what? “Toe ek weer so kyk, het ‘n AK jou fucked-up geskiet”. If this had come out ten years earlier it would have been banned outright!

Cover picture was taken at Matjiesfontein station, though the background mountains have been added in.

‘In Die Transvaal’ originally appeared on Valiant Swart’s ‘Die Mystic Boer’ album in 1995.

It seems appropriate that a song called ‘Sien Jou Weer’ (‘See You Again’ if you are not au fait with Afrikaans) begins with that sort of country-ish on the road again sound that you get in the movies as the hero/heroine sets off on a trip. You never quite know if you will see them again.

The music here has a rhythm of a train, a smoothness of the countless whiskeys consumed on the way, the desolation of the open road and a voice as gravelly as the tar on which you ride. You can smell the memories and sadness that gather in the slipstream of the departing sound, but the singer has to go. As Piet sings, ‘kyk nou die langpad/roep my al weer/daar is nou genade en liefe/en nog baie meer’ (‘look, the highway/calls me again/there is mercy and love/and so much more). The call of the open road is strong with this one.

This is Piet Botha and Jack Hammer at their smooth best. They can sometimes rock hard, but when they turn their collective hands (and voices) to those blues, they know exactly what to do and in ‘Sien Jou’ Weer’, they created something of beauty. It’s a song that once you’ve listened to it, you have no objections to seeing it again on your playlist.
— John Samson, 29 March 2019, 1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

One wonders if the person Piet Botha is singing of in ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter was told to Vat Jou Goed en trek Ferreira. The drifter is on a train to nowhere, on the run from a woman who wants to shoot him, and all he carries with him is a suitcase full of winter. There is a stoicism about the man in question. He is on the run to nowhere, but this suits him (dit pas my goed). It is a rather bleak image, but there is also a gritty realism about it.

Piet’s growling voice manages to capture all these feelings. He sounds almost as if he doesn’t care, yet at the same time there is a desperate edge to the vocals. This is all laid on top of some blistering blues. From the first thudding beats of the guitar and building, with the aid of harmonica and piano, into a desperate, desolate soundscape that seems to compliment the emotional and physical landscapes one can imagine this man on the run is travelling through.

Except for the fact that the lyrics are in Afrikaans and there is a full band sound, ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter sounds as if it could easily have slid out of one of the great Delta blues singer’s guitars. The subject matter and the rhythm fit perfectly. This is, without a doubt, one of the great Afrikaans blues tracks.
— John Samson, 23 September 2012, 1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Goeienag Generaal (The 5FM Sessions version) – Piet Botha & Jack Hammer

The border war in South West (as it was then) and Angola had a significant psychological effect of a lot of young white South Africans conscripted to go and fight there. These effects are still felt by many today and, until recently, was hardly ever spoken of.

In 1997, Piet Botha spoke of it and did so in powerful words against an angry guitar backdrop. The track appeared on his critically acclaimed album ‘‘n Suitcase Vol Winter‘ and talks of the war being fought for all the trappings of capitalism. It was fought for ‘Vir Harry Oppenheimer en al sy maats, Vir Rembrandt van Rijn en Alfred Dunhill, En die OK Bazaars, En die hele bloody spul by die SAUK, Julle was die oorlog vir die CIA.’ And while the war was being fought for these people, Whitey, was being shot by an AK47.

Whether you agree with Piet’s view of the reasons for the war or not, this is one of the great anti-war songs that thunders along with venom, anger and a pounding rhythm. It sounds just as good on the live versions that are available as the studio ones do.
— John Samson, 11 June 2011, 1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Review:
by Stephen Segerman

This first solo album of modern, Afrikaans folk/blues songs happened on the instigation of Eckard Potgieter, the owner of Wildebeest Records. He suggested an album of slow, soft and relevant Afrikaans songs. After four months of production at the Sunset Studios in Stellenbosch, under the guiding hand of Jurgen von Wechmar, ‘Suitcase Vol Winter’ was released. Although many of Stellenbosch’s finest musicians helped with the album, it was mostly Piet Botha’s labour of love and was very different to his previous work with Raven and Jack Hammer.

The 12 songs on this album are acoustic-based, laid back and emotional. Botha wrote all the songs (with the exception of Valiant Swart’s ‘In Die Transvaal’ and the Koos Kombuis written-and-sung ‘Gipsey In Jou Oe’) and delivered the finest vocal performance of his career with ballads like the beautiful and sad ‘Van Tonder’ and the reflective title track. Along with Swart, Kombuis and Koos du Plessis, Piet Botha was responsible for establishing Afrikaans as a competitive rock music “taal” again.

Piet and Pik Botha
Piet Botha with his father, Pik Botha

These sensitive and narrative songs cover all those SA subjects that had affected Piet Botha as a South African growing up in the apartheid-era. From the Anglo-Boer and Border wars (‘Goeienag Generaal’), life, death and politics to wives, film stars and “the road”, Botha covers all these relevant topics with strong lyrics, steady and sympathetic backing and a wide range of feelings that leaves this album up there with the best from Koos Kombuis and Valiant Swart.

The other artists appearing on this album are Jorik Pienaar (drums), Jason Phillips (bass), Johnathan Martin (guitars, cellos and vocals) as well as Koos Kombuis, Valiant Swart and Brenda Pieterse. While it must be mentioned that Piet is the son of the long-serving Nationalist Party Foreign Affairs minister, Pik, it should also be said that Piet Botha’s alternative career certainly puts paid to that old Afrikaans cliché, “Die appel val nie ver van die boom af nie”. A great SA artist and album.

 

Discography:

From The Vaults: Jack Hammer at the Whammy Bar, 11th November 1999

This was when I first met Piet Botha and Johnathan Martin (that is the correct spelling for Johnathan, I found out years later!). Piet often used to say that I put them on the internet before they even knew what the internet was!
— Brian Currin, 10th July 2020

from SA Rock Digest, Issue #39, 21st November 1999

Whammy Bar 11 November 1999

Whammy Bar 11 November 1999

Piet Botha’s famed blues-rock band is releasing a retrospective of their 4 albums on a new compilation CD early in December. Titled simply “Anthology” this CD will include 4 or 5 new songs plus a new re-recording of the classic ‘Fort Lauderdale’ alongside tracks from all 4 previous albums.

Those of you who were lucky enough to see Piet Botha on his recent “Skopgraaf” tour would have heard a couple of the new tracks, including ‘April’.

Piet Botha, Jonathan Martin and Tertius du Plessis wowed the enthusiastic audience at the Whammy Bar in Cape Town recently. Their set included Piet Botha solo songs, Jack Hammer tracks and some covers including a stunning version of Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’.

Please see the Original post

Please also see: South African Rock Legends: Piet Botha and Jack Hammer

Roadies but Goldies: Jackson

“… Laat Die Wiele Rol, O Jackson …”

Farewell To Jackson

by Moonshine Lee, 16 July 2001

The ‘fifth’ member of Jack Hammer, Hendry Jackson, jets out to Chicago USA tonight (16.07.2001) to pursue business interests there for awhile. A close and long standing friend, supporter, stalwart of the ‘Hammer’ over the past 23 odd years.

We celebrated two farewell gigs for Jackson in Pretoria, which is Jackson’s hometown, over the past weekend. Friday night (13.7.2001) saw a packed Café Barcelona, in Erasmuskloof, bid a fitting farewell to our ‘Brother-in-Arms’ with some seething rock ‘n’ roll from Jack Hammer. The short tour the Hammer and Johnathan Martin had in the UK in June, and having seen the likes of Neil Young, AC/DC and Buddy Guy live, has certainly put a razor sharp edge on their music. And bring the house down they did. What a send off ….’Laat die wiele rol, ou Jackson………….’

Sunday afternoon (15.7.2001) the celebrations moved to Glen Afrique, an exquisite bush pub situated in the midst of a game farm near Hartebeespoortdam. A better venue for the ‘grand finale’ ala bush style, one could not have asked for. The Hammer, Johnathan Martin with Mervin Davis on mandolin, bid their farewells to their good friend the only and best way they know, through their music……. (after all that’s what formed this bond in the first place!)

Jackson we wish you well and don’t see this as the end of an era, but in fact the start of something new. We’re sure you’ll be keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities in the Chicago scene and we look forward to a time when we can meet up there with you.

For now, we want to say that it had been an honour and a privilege to have walked this road with you for the past 23 years. My friend, we’re sure going to miss you, but by the same token this break could not have happened to a finer man.

Salute Amigo!

Moonshine Lee, The Hammer, Jono the Kid Martin, Tertius and the Duke.


Roadies but Goldies — rock’s unsung heroes. The story of Jackson, the fifth Hammer on the Jack and the road less travelled.

by Bert Badgrass, January 2001

As this glorious beast we call rock ‘n roll gains in strength and finds new voices all the time, the vital role of the roadie is ritually overlooked and forgotten.

These unsung heroes who travel the length and breadth of the land, setting up the stage for the band, slinking back into their no-man’s land to savour the sounds during the gig, only to reappear when everybody’s gone home to pack up and head off for the next town.

Often running on empty – with apologies to Jackson Browne — these are truly the guys who live the rock ‘n roll lifestyle to the full. Without the glamour that performance brings.

And often, as is the case with Jack Hammer’s Jackson, it is a labour of love. Guys who plugged in to the alternative vision which rock offered way back when the world was young. Guys who bought, hook, line and sinker, the dream of peace and love offered by these “other” voices.

I caught up with Jackson at that national monument to consumerism — one of several in which have been erected in honour of Mammon in our land, mind — Menlyn Park in Pretoria.

He was busy with his daytime job — installing surveillance cameras, another latterday necessary evil, for an electronics company. Remember the days when the only Big Brother we gave the thumbs-up to was the one who headed the Holding Company, which backed Janis Joplin? Ah well … so it goes.

Jackson and The Hammer (aka Piet Botha) go way back to the late 1970s when Piet was playing with Abno at the Keg and Tankard in Pretoria. (Jacks and I go back even further: Palm Grove, Margate in December ’72 — ’76. Remember Shalima etc? As ex-Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi had it: Oh How We Danced!)

“I just started hanging out with Piet, digging his music and what he was doing. We became friends and I just helped out where I could as far as electronics were concerned. I sort of formally became Jack Hammer’s roadie — this was during their first incarnation — in the mid 80s.

“This was when we got the gig at Grand Central and the band did a light show. They needed someone who knew something about being a sparks and, well, I just naturally filled that role.

“In those days, the members included Piet and guys like Boet Faber, Paul van Eeden, Derek Riley and Eric Birkenstock — I have seen many Jacks, so to speak, come and go in my time, I tell you.”

There’s hardly an area of South Africa where Jack Hammer hasn’t performed in the past 15/16 years or so. Still, it’s been an unusual take on life, says Jackson — definitely the road less travelled.

Jacks does it for the love of it and out of his admiration for the band. “When we’re on the road, I’m looked after in terms of food and accommodation etc (plus, of course, a few other perks, not to mention temptations) but I don’t want money.

“That just means that the guys in the band get less. Yeah, I guess you could say it is a labour of love, although Piet does help me out if the need arises.

Altruistic or what?

In addition to taking care of the nuts and bolts of setting up etc — although that task these days fail more and more on the shoulders of guitarist Johnathan (“The Kid”) Martin and bassist Tertius (“Bean”) du Plessis — Jacks is also the band’s sternest critic.

“When I think they’ve been hot I’ll tell them that. But when they’ve, shall we say, fouled up, I tell them straight: ‘If you get 50% better you’ll be halfway there.

By the way, drummer Paul van de Waal is known As The Duke — “because he always looks smart”.

Jackson reckons the current Jack Hammer line-up is “just about the best we’ve ever had. We’ve had a few storms in the past, I tell you; let’s say it was down to personality clashes.”

Asked what his high point of his 20 or so years with Piet has been, Jackson singles out the ZZ Top tour — when Jack Hammer was the support act. “Ah, you know, everyday is a high point, whenever I hear the guys.”

“I’ve always been surrounded by so many great musicians that I count it a privilege.”

Low points are a bit more mundane — car/van breakdowns on the road. Once, the band’s combi caught fire just outside Bloemfontein. “A piece of sponge fell out of the engine on to the exhaust and the combi staretd smoking.”

“Some guys in another car who saw the smoke billowing out the back pulled us over — we thought we were being attacked or hijacked, heaven forbid — and helped us put out the fire. That was close, but we managed to save both the combi and the equipment — the show had to go on, you know.”

The biggest pluspoint of his job as roadie is meeting lots of different people; “good people and good music”. Pressed on the “temptations” referred to earlier, Jackson laughs and says: “Yeah, we travelled pretty hard in the old days — these days we take it a bit more easy.”

As a result of his lifestyle, Jackson prefers the life of a bachelor. “It’s like Ben Dekker said when he was asked if he had ever been married. He replied: ‘No. I’ve avoided all of life’s major mistakes’.”

He thinks of himself as an integral part of the band. “I always talk about ‘us’ or ‘we’ whenever we are on the road. More so when we are in other towns: You know, ‘we’re’ playing at such and such a venue tonight.”

Jackson says Piet’s Afrikaans work, notably Suitcase Vol Winter, had allowed them the opportunity to reach a much wider audience. “We even played in Vredendal on the West Coast. It’s great to see the audience — young and old — sing along with the songs.”

Well, that’s the great thing about music eh? It breaks down barriers.

Jackson favourite songs in Jack Hammer’s repertoire include some early ones, like Must’ve Been Dreaming and Cameron Road, as well as some great covers, the Stones’ Love In Vain and the Doors’ Texas Radio And The Big Beat.

So yeah: hey, hey, my, my; rock ‘n roll will never die. And to a large extent it is unsung heroes like Jackson who will ensure that the beast goes from strength to strength.

Thanks mate.

The growing number of Jack Hammer fans will be happy to hear that a new Piet Botha & Jack Hammer CD, entitled Bootleg, is now available.

As the title suggests, it is a live album, recorded at various locations up and down the country between May 1998 and April 2000, except for the two opening tracks, The Game and For Annette.

I love their version of Nick Drake’s Northern Sky — which isn’t surprising. There are also some original gems, like Blues Vir Louise, Goeienag Generaal and, of course, Suitcase Vol Winter — and I tell you, the blues never sounded so good in Afrikaans.

Led Zeppelin’s Tangerine (sung by Johnathan) is also there and is superb, as are Jack Hammer showstoppers like Runaway Train and Cocaine Blues. Jackson says the CD is available at live gigs. Good news is that the lads will be going into the studio towards the end of the year to record a brand new CD.

Keep on hammering away guys; we, your fans, are all jacked up! And thanks hey!

Reprinted from Pretoria website

South African Rock Legends: Piet Botha and Jack Hammer

February 2000: This was the original entry for Piet Botha and Jack Hammer on the South African Rock Files website (which was launched on the 1st January 1999), before being expanded into its own website on 21st January 2001.

We had a website before we even knew the internet existed. Thanks to Brian …

Piet Botha, at Brian Currin’s 50th birthday bash, 7th February 2009.
Piet Botha Gypsy 2000

Discography:

Review:

SA Rock Digest Issue #47, 21 February 2000: The Digest caught Piet Botha and Jonathan Martin’s unplugged set at two different venues in Cape Town recently. First at the Big Tree in the Strand on the 12th February and again on the 17th February at the Whammy Bar in Table View.

These 2 musicians are incredibly talented and they entertained the enthusiastic crowds with songs from all 4 previous Jack Hammer albums, as well as Piet’s 2 solo Afrikaans outings.

They also played a few covers which included Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’, Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’, Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, Guns ‘N Roses’ ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’ and Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.

Two brilliant evenings of Acoustic Afrikaans Alternative Folk Rock (pick one or all of the above) which will never be forgotten…

Brian Currin, February 2000

Biography:

For over 30 years, Piet Botha has been working, playing and building a legendary reputation on the SA rock scene. He began writing songs and forming bands while still at school and then hooked up with Abner Smith at university to develop their acoustic duo. Botha then connected with the members of Tusk (Doc Barendse, Dino Salvatori and Derek Riley) to establish the band Raven. This hard-rocking four-piece won the “Beat 79” nation-wide competition for new rock groups and released the singles ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ and ‘The Horseman’ on David Marks’ Third Ear Label.

Botha then formed Catherine Wheel with the two members of Wildebeest, namely Dave Tarr and Colin Pratley. With Botha on bass, piano and mouth organ, the group expanded to a five piece and in 1981 the classic ‘Bushrock 1’ album was released. In 1984, Botha’s new band, Jack Hammer, was started with Boet Faber, Jan Maloney and Eric Birckenstock, but the band’s activities were put on hold when Botha relocated to the US in 1985. There he met Billy Bob Thornton with whom he began a strong friendship; Thornton also played drums and sang on the first Jack Hammer album. Twelve years later, Billy Bob Thornton won the “Best Actor” Academy Award for his part in the film ‘Slingblade’.

After returning to SA in 1986, Botha restarted Jack Hammer and for the next ten years they released four excellent and acclaimed SA rock albums – ‘Jack Of All Trades’ (1987), ‘The Judas Chapter’ (1990), ‘Ghosts On The Wind’ (1994) and ‘Death Of A Gypsy’ (1996). During 1995, Eckard Potgieter decided to grow his successful CD club, Mainline Music, into an SA record company, and Wildebeest Records was born with Piet Botha very much part of their plans. Wildebeest released the Jack Hammer albums alongside albums by Valiant Swart, Koos Kombuis, Transformers and the quirky Naaimasjiene.

In 1995 Jack Hammer played support for the Gauteng leg of the Uriah Heep/Deep Purple “Masters Of Rock” South African tour. Jack Hammer also supported one of Piet’s main influences, ZZ Top, on their SA tour. In 1997, Piet Botha and Wildebeest Records released Botha’s first solo album, the All-Afrikaans, “n Suitcase Vol Winter’, which has received critical and public approval. A second Afrikaans album, ‘Jan Skopgraaf’ was released in October 1999 and Piet toured South Africa with Jonathan Martin and Tertius du Plessis during November 1999 to promote this album and his back catalogue.

A Jack Hammer compilation titled simply ‘Anthology’ was released in January 2000 and featured tracks from all 4 previous albums plus 5 new recordings including a re-recording of their classic song ‘Fort Lauderdale’.

Piet and Jonathan Martin toured again in February 2000 to promote the ‘Anthology’ CD.

Brian Currin, February 2000

Jack Hammer at the Whammy Bar, 11th November 1999

from SA Rock Digest, Issue #39, 21st November 1999

Whammy Bar 11 November 1999
Whammy Bar 11 November 1999

Piet Botha’s famed blues-rock band is releasing a retrospective of their 4 albums on a new compilation CD early in December. Titled simply “Anthology” this CD will include 4 or 5 new songs plus a new re-recording of the classic ‘Fort Lauderdale’ alongside tracks from all 4 previous albums.

Those of you who were lucky enough to see Piet Botha on his recent “Skopgraaf” tour would have heard a couple of the new tracks, including ‘April’.

Piet Botha, Jonathan Martin and Tertius du Plessis wowed the enthusiastic audience at the Whammy Bar in Cape Town recently. Their set included Piet Botha solo songs, Jack Hammer tracks and some covers including a stunning version of Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’.

This is when I first met Piet Botha and Johnathan Martin.

Brian Currin