Aja in 2015

Our Dog Aja

Aja in 2015

Last night our dog died. Her name was Aja and she was 10 years and 10 months old.

She was the second pet dog that I’ve ever had in my life. The first was Josie, a puppy chosen and named by my daughter Erin when she was 8 years old. Erin named Josie after her doll, Josephina. Josie grew with our children and we had 13 years with her until she died in 2014. At the time, I was at peace with the idea that Josie would be my one and only dog in my life. However, soon my wife and sons convinced me to go to the Humane Society and “just look” at the dogs. Soon it was apparent that this 4 1/2 year old Jack Russell was going to be our next pet. My only condition was that we carry on the “tradition” of naming our dogs after songs from the classic 1977 Steely Dan album. This dog became the title song with Karyn’s counter-condition being that we use the unique pronunciation of Aja as “Ossha”.

We were Aja’s third owners, with no given facts as to why her previous two families gave up on her. Soon we learned that this was probably because while she was smart and perfectly housetrained,  she was just too damn undisciplined for the previous two. And undisciplined she was.

Unlike Josie, who could be let loose in a field and reply from a far to verbal commands, when something caught the attention of or sparked a fear in Aja, she was off like a torrent. Our backyard fence? Yeah, right! She would leap over it in a single bound. No doubt, Aja had some serious abandonment issues as well as a keen sense of when Karyn and I were planning to go on a trip. And those were the days she would forge her greatest run-aways and be nearly impossible to catch. But also she loved to be chased, keep away was her favorite game. It drove us nuts for a while, until we decided to just stop pursuing her and soon after she decided to just stop running away.

On the flip side of that undisciplined frustration were the unique and incredible qualities of this dog. When she loved something, she loved it with every fiber of her being. This passion applied to going for walks, rides, eating, singing, chasing squeaky balls, yelling at the mailman, and most especially bonding with the people in our family.

When we first got Aja, she was very hesitant to bark. But after a day or two with me, those inhibitions loosened up. Soon we were barking at everything and we even set off the occasional “bark bomb” on some quiet summer afternoons when neighboring dogs reacted to us and that cascaded down the block until the whole neighborhood was a chorus of barks. When I played my guitar, Aja would often harmonize with high pitched howls and I even developed a song just for her, made of nothing but barks, grunts and howls. Aja got so tuned in to this special “dog” song that she would instantly react when I hit the very first E power chord. In fact, once I had my guitar detuned a half step (hence making that ‘E’ an ‘E-flat’) and when I hit the opening chord she sort of raised an ear and an eyebrow at me as to say “dude, I know what you’re trying for but it’s not quite right”.

She loved rides but only down familiar roads (again the abandonment issues made her nervous whenever we took her anyplace unfamiliar). So we developed some regular routines with the car rides, one of which became the inspiration for a song I wrote called “Cherry Avenue” (due out on the next Sinclair Soul album coming in 2021). While the song is largely metaphorical about life, Cherry Avenue actually does exist. Unlike the grandiose corridor in the song, the actual Cherry Avenue is an unkempt back alley filled with trash cans, dilapidated garages, sheds, overgrown weeds and various states of backyards. To Aja, this was the most interesting place on Earth – filled with cats, squirrels and various familiar dogs – and I would cruise at 5 mph so that Aja got as many barks in as possible and always leery that someday we’d be confronted by a shotgun wielding homeowner sick of us disturbing their peace.

Once we drove by a local horse farm as a group of horses were feeding behind the fence very close to the road. I pulled over as Aja stuck her snout out the partially opened passenger window to catch their scent and assess the situation. Then she let out a sudden yelp, which spooked the horses and caused a mini stampede. I’ve never seen Aja prouder than when these creatures, 50 times her size and weight, ran away on her “command”. Going to “yell at the horses” became part of our routine, although they very quickly became wise to her and never again got spooked.

Karyn was the primary dogwalker in the family, but I joined them enough times to know how absolutely exhausting these walks could be for us humans. Aja had boundless energy and when she got us off the property she was eager to alert of us of every happening in every nook and cranny of the neighborhood. She would try to chase squirrels up trees, communicate with other pets as we passed their properties and God forbid if we ever came face-to-face with a dreaded postman.

We had Aja for 6 years, which seemed to go by in a flash. She appeared to age very little or change much at all during the first 5 of those years, an era when Aja was also my one and only co-worker, being I’m a self-employed business owner. However, 2020 changed everything. With the pandemic, Karyn also started working from home in March and, although Aja was thrilled about her “mommy” not leaving every morning, it was right round this time that our dog to change. At first the signs were subtle – more fatigue from her walks, shorter times interested in chasing the squeaky tennis balls, less interest in the outside happenings when we went for our rides. Soon it was Aja who was getting tired out on the walks, so much so that we merged it into a walk/ride where I’d pick up Karyn and Aja half way through their normal routine. But then some more severe physical signs emerged. In June she started shaking at times, sometime not being able to walk straight so we brought her to the vet.

After an examination, we found out that Aja had a tumor on her pancreas and it was most likely inoperable. The net result of this was sort of like a reverse-diabetes where her body produced too much insulin and it was getting increasingly harder to keep her blood sugar high enough. At the vet’s suggestion, we started feeding her 5-6 times a day at modest levels and this did work to stabilize her for most of the summer, although her enthusiasm for all those things still waned. Then, about a week or so ago, Aja had a very bad day, but she did snap out of it and strung together about 4 or 5 good days right up through Saturday. In fact, on Saturday, Aja sang our “dog song” with me for the first time in quite a while. Like many other things, she had lost interest in singing in recent months and this “comeback” performance was a very pleasant surprised which turned out to be our last one together.

On her final day, yesterday, my wife cancelled all plans and spent the entire day with her. She could tell early on that something was not quite right but Karyn and Aja had several quality hours during the day. When I returned in the evening, things turned really dour and we had to bring her to the emergency animal hospital where we made the gut-wrenching decision to end her suffering.

The last song Aja heard on the radio as we arrived at the animal hospital was “Africa” by Toto, which contains the fitting lyric;

“The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company…”

Aja will not be forgotten.

The Good Guys

The Good Guys are Coming!

The Good Guys

I’m writing today announce my latest and most ambitious rock n roll project called The Good Guys. We are planning to release this album by the end of 2019 and recording for this has gotten underway at Paul Smith‘s state-of-the-art Eight Days a Week recording studio in Northumberland, PA.

In fact, I celebrated my 50th birthday on December 10th by doing an incredibly productive recording session with Paul along with drummer Ron Simasek, vocalist Mycenea Worley, guitarist Phil Brosius, multi-instrumentalist Bret Alexander and my son, audio engineer Jake Albano. Some of you may know Phil from his extensive work with many local bands and Mycenea, an award winning singer-songwriter and current member of the group The Pleiades. You may also remember Bret, Paul and Ron as long time members of the internationally acclaimed rock group The Badlees and current members of the rock group Gentlemen East. So I am incredibly humbled to have this posse of top-notch musicians and production team with over a century of combined experience at all levels of the music industry.

The Good Guys will be the fourth overall album of original music under the name Sinclair Soul. The Journey was completed in early 2017 and released in June of that year. Last winter we recorded a second album, Reflections of Relevance and released it this past March of 2018. Then over the summer we produced and released the third album, Nine Fine Lines.

This new album will feature quality songs of an interpersonal nature with topics ranging from the serious and somber to the joyful and fun. I’ve written these songs over the past year and have been performing them acoustically throughout 2018 and now, with the addition of the quality musicians and vocalists, these songs will grow sonically to include entertaining and rewarding elements of vast musical genres such as blues, folk, country, jazz, and of course, rock n roll.

You can read more on The Good Guys project at SinclairSoul.com

All of the previous work I’ve done has been 100% self funded, but with this new and ambitious The Good Guys project, I have launched my first ever crowd funding campaign through Patreon. With this, I’m asking for a very modest monthly contribution in exchange for exclusive content that is not available anywhere else. I’ve set up three basic tiers with each progressively giving access to more exclusive content.

  • The most modest $3 “Tin” tier includes an archived video of live performances of songs not seen before on video, many of which are cover tunes of songs I may have only performed once or twice, so these are fun little gems.
  • The middle tier is “Copper” at $5 per month and includes the aforementioned video series plus a second video series of special, storytelling and behind-the-scenes videos as we make this new music and/or reflect back on previous original songs.
  • The current top tier is “Bronze” at $7 per month and the level at which I encourage you to contribute. This includes the previous two video series along with digital copies of the first three Sinclair Soul albums. Starting in January 2019, these will be released one per month to Bronze level patrons and, along with the music, will include additional digital material such as artwork and promos.

Thank you for your time and consideration and have a Happy New Year.

Ric Albano


My Own Personal Edsel


Sometimes when you’re just just a little too close to something, it’s hard to recognize that thing for what it actually is. This is the case. not just for tangible things, but intangible things as well, like works of art.

I’ve been a musician for most of my life, since I was in high school. I’ve been writing songs on a consistent basis since about 1987 or so, and from the beginning I’ve been putting those songs down in some form of recording. Through the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s, I wrote hundreds of songs and recorded them at home on a Fostex four-track cassette recorder. Then, I took a break from music for quite a while, about seven or eight years. In 2003, I decided to buy a new four-track recorder so I could revisit some of my old master tapes and, with the advent of modern digital software, I thought it might be an opportune time to try to refine some of those old recordings and see if I can make something out of them. Unfortunately, this was not possible as they were done in an amateur fashion and no amount of new technology could reverse-engineer the sound quality of the original recordings. They were drenched in nostalgia, but they didn’t have a lot of commercial viability.

So I came up with a crazy idea – why not start from scratch and make new music, I mean a real album! I made this decision in about 2004 and before I went out and recorded in an actual recording studio, I decided to give it one more try at home, making music the way used to. So with some new digital software and computer hardware, I resurrected my old fashioned way of recording – with keyboards, electronic drums and bass guitar. I made a 14 song demo of new material written over that long span of my “retirement” and decided to send it out to some local recording studios. I named this demo “Imaginary Lines” after a loose concept I was working on at the time, thinking I would perhaps create a “concept album” of related songs. Ultimately, very few of those concept songs were retained and I did not stay true to the concept, opting to just make the best album from the best possible songs. So even though the name stuck, the “Imaginary Lines” concept was pretty much blown up from the beginning.

After weighing options for many different studios I decided on Saturation Acres, which was then located outside of Danville, Pennsylvania at the time. The studio was owned by two former members of the rock group The Badlees and, even though this was a bit of a drive to get to the studio, they seem like the most professional and I was very familiar with their past work. So in April 2005 I entered a professional studio as a musician for the first time. Some of the those initial recordings were pure magic, sounding unbelievably good due to the methods they used which I had never practiced before – click tracks, professional drumming, great guitar leads, pitch, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, and texture of the sound. I was very happy with the results I got out of those initial recordings from 2005. In October of that year I released what was meant to be the first of the trilogy of albums cleverly, entitled Imaginary Lines One. Those nine songs on that initial album still we made some of the finest recordings I’ve ever made.

The plan was to record an album each year starting with that first one in 2005, obviously with the second one in 2006. However, here’s where things started to go a little bit awry. After the success for recording of Imaginary Lines One, I spent a lot of time writing music for a follow up but I didn’t have the luxury of cherry picking the best songs from a long prepared demo tape. So everything was pretty much new, as I didn’t want to use any of the songs that had been left off of Imaginary Lines One and wanted to make another album that was of equal quality to that debut. I wrote a lot of songs in 2006 but that was also the year we bought our current house. This was the first of several issues that would arise with the Imaginary Lines project. In 2007, I got back to the studio to record but I was running short on money and short on time. I gave myself a hard deadline to finish it by the end of that calendar year and hence, I ended up releasing a truncated album and I didn’t add any overdubbed guitars it was a very raw strip down collection of songs with piano bass and drums basically and of course lead vocals and I thought this was like a nice counterpart to the rich production of Imaginary Lines One.

So here comes Imaginary Lines II and it’s little more than a dud and I was I didn’t have the enthusiasm to promote this one that I had for the first one. Also, I was increasingly worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with a third album that would meet the quality of the first or even the second. So, right around this time I decided to change the overall strategy and focus everything into one large compilation album. This would give me an opportunity to fully complete Imaginary Lines II as well as not worry about making a stand-alone third “album” but just adding the best available tracks. So that’s what I did with Imaginary Lines 33, a triple length, two CD album with 33 total tracks. The first disc began with the eight new (“Imaginary Lines 3”) tracks followed by the nine from Imaginary Lines One verbatim and in the original 2005 running order. The second disc included an updated version of Imaginary Lines II as originally envisioned, 16 songs fully produced. I intended to get this all done by 2008 but ultimately it took another year and this international release took place on September 9, 2009.

And so it was that I carried out this new plan with Imaginary Lines 33 and, when released in September 2009, it was more of a relief than a joyous type of feeling of accomplishment. By the end, I was burned out and just wanted to get it done. At the time of its release I was also on another band called Animal Society and we were getting ready to release our own initial album, which we all decided would be something completely different from the Imaginary Lines project. All three of us in that band wrote to an extent and I was relegated to basically sticking to my duties as bass player lead vocalist, trying to give the other two on equal time. We entered the studio in early 2010 and recorded a solid set of songs that I mixed together as an album, but unfortunately we never released it prior to breaking up and I basically commenced a second long break from making music

But I never really stopped writing songs and started conceptualizing plans to make one more album under the name Sinclair Soul name, a name I had used jokingly as an alter-ego throughout my career. There was an issue with the marketing and branding side of things when I coined the term “Imaginary Lines” in 2004 and by the time Imaginary Lines 33 was completed in 2009, a Hollywood based photography company by the same name had pretty much cornered the market on that name in entertainment. So I decided for the final time to coin a name for my musical act (I was never comfortable using my real name), and the (then planned) one and only Sinclair Soul album was to have the grand finale-like name of One More Rock Left to Roll. This was basically to be my retirement album and I wrote plenty of music for it, about 20 songs. I started performing the songs live around 2013 and began plans to record soon after but but that never happened as I faced issues with getting the thing off the ground.

Then something happened in 2016 when, on a whim I decided to buy an acoustic guitar. It had been a long time since I’d been a guitar player and for the entirety of the Imaginary Lines project I was strictly keyboards and bass. But I did buy an acoustic in the summer of 2016 and, unbeknownst to me, this would set things in motion to really get to Sinclair Soul project off the ground. I wrote three acoustic songs in late 2016 early 2017 and planned to record them as a sort of EP. In Spring 2017, I entered the studio for first time in seven years with plans of just recording the three songs.

However, I had so much fun recording that I decided to go a step further and take some of the better Imaginary Lines songs and update them by adding a new guitar lead here, maybe a new piano there, to make each different than they were on the original Imaginary Lines 33. I also turned over mixing and mastering for the first time, giving these songs to a fresh set of ears which proved very beneficial sonically. In the end, I added four new versions songs of classic songs to the three newly composed acoustic songs to forge the unplanned but pleasantly surprising album of The Journey, released in the summer of 2017. Within a year, I decided to do it over again with the same kind of formula for the second Sinclair Soul album, Reflections of Relevance, released in March 2018.

So, here I go with my trilogy idea again as I decide to create one more Sinclair Soul album made solely of updated Imaginary Lines songs – nine more songs to form Nine Fine Lines to coincide with the ninth anniversary of Imaginary Lines 33 with release on September 9, 2018. I re-did each of them, re-named one of them and everything on this new album has either new vocals or new lyrics or a combination of both. This album was mixed by my son Jake Albano, a new audio engineer who I hope to work with many times in the future.

“…and so it Goes curtains on the shell my own personal Edsel is now gone!”

The final line on the final song of Nine Fine Lines says it all; “my own personal Edsel is now gone” Basically, I’m declaring the end of the Imaginary Lines project once and for all. I affectionately call this “my own personal Edsel” because I think that is a good allegory. Obviously, it signifies a huge bust of something once thought to be innovative and great. On the other hand, it also signifies something that’s a little bit special, perhaps a little bit before it’s time little and odd but beautiful in its own way. Today, Edsels are collectors items. They were considered a major bust in 1959 but they are unique in the sense that they persisted some 50 years later.

So that’s basically what Imaginary Lines within the Sinclair Soul canon, with about 20 songs brought forward in full or part to be included in the first three Sinclair Soul albums and will be from this day forward be the official versions of those compositions. The remaining 13 songs, not brought forward to Sinclair Soul, have been gathered and released on a digital-only album called Imaginary Lines 13, available on Bandcamp, with each song pretty much fossilized for posterity as the same as they were in 2009.

This moment obviously marks a big turning point in the music career of myself and the Sinclair Soul project going forward. From now on, all the music will be new and original and a whole new album’s worth of music is already written and is currently being rehearsed with recording starting in December of this year (2018). No breaks this time. It’s simply on with the music!

It has been fun reflecting back on Imaginary Lines but now the final chapter of that project has been written.

~ Ric Albano