Cardinal Black: the oldest new band in town are just getting started

Cardinal Black sitting on a bench in front of a window
(Image credit: Tony Teague)

With support slots to Myles Kennedy and The Struts in the rearview mirror, and debut album January Came Close out now, Cardinal Black's Chris Buck – previously voted Best New Guitarist, Best Blues Guitarist and Best Pop Guitarist by the readers of Guitarist magazine – sits down for a chat with Classic Rock.

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In mid-2021 a four-month-old Cardinal Black introduced themselves to Classic Rock readers with a promise that “the best is yet to come”, only for lockdown to slam the door shut. 

I feel a bit guilty because for me it was okay. I kept busy, I became a father, and at around that time we put together the bare bones of Cardinal Black. 

It was during quarantine that you reconnected with your former bandmates vocalist Tom Hollister and drummer Adam Roberts, aka the Tom Hollister Trio. 

That band went way back to 2010, and after breaking up we tried to be acrimonious but couldn’t manage it. We had amassed so much material that we got back together and realised how much we enjoyed playing. Jamming the old stuff, the new songs came along really naturally. I guess you could say we’re the oldest new band in the world. 

First time around, Tom pulled the plug, feeling restricted by the format of a three-piece. Consequently, Cardinal Black are a quartet. We were getting a lot of comparisons to the Hendrix Experience and Cream, and he felt a bit confined by that. So we brought Sam [Williams] in on bass and Tom focuses on the singing. And can he sing! 

Cardinal Black have got soul – something missing in much of today’s music

I agree. This is just the noise the four of us make playing music in a room together – and we’ve been doing it for a long time. 

Why did you take the independent route with the album? There must have been labels that were interested? 

There were a few, but we didn’t need to look at the small print, the large print said it all. We would be giving a lot away. There was also the fact that some of these songs are so old that we didn’t want to give them away, they felt like our babies. So we had a Kickstarter campaign that exceeded all our expectations. 

What can you tell us about the album, January Came Close? 

We produced it ourselves. We’ve shot some videos at Abbey Road, which will be drip-fed. 

You know you are doing something right when Slash re-posts an Instagram clip of a guitar solo you played at the Winter’s End Festival

I’ve played with him, I know him and I hope it’s no stretch to call him a friend, but it was incredibly surreal to receive a social media notice: “Slash has tagged you in a post”, especially as when I was a kid, GN’R were my band. 

Cardinal Black also toured the UK with Myles Kennedy. Did he give you any feedback? 

Because of the backstage covid bubble we didn’t get to meet Myles until the last night of the tour, but he told us that he had watched us most nights, and I know that he even posted on Instagram about how much he liked us. 

What is the status of your other band, Buck & Evans?

After the gig at the Firestorm Festival we’re kind of going onto the back burner for a while. Everybody has stuff going on in their lives, it’s no big deal.

January Came Close is out now. Cardinal Black are playing support on Peter Frampton's farewell UK tour, which kicks off on November 5. Get tickets (opens in new tab)

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.