Book Review: Composing Temple Sunrise: Overcoming Writer’s Block at Burning Man

Book Review

Hassan El-Tayyab, Composing Temple Sunrise: Overcoming Writer’s Block at Burning Man, Poetic Matrix Press, 2016.


If you are now or ever have been raised in a family, fallen in love with the wrong person (“Who, me? Never!” – right), written a song or wanted to, experienced Burning Man or wanted to, there’s a good chance you will enjoy this book. The author, Hassan El-Tayyab, gracefully tumbles through upheavals in his work and love life, venturing forth on a quest of self-acceptance as a songwriter and a man.


Forged through the fire of pain and loss, we see our own journeys illuminated by the author’s. Unlike some others of the genre, this memoir will not leave you wanting to slap a self-indulgent young author upside the head. Hassan neither resorts to cliché nor panders to privilege. His is an urgent quest for self-acceptance as he sheds the shell that held him back from embracing his musical gift.


With his writing and his music, Hassan El-Tayyab has proved himself worthy of this gift. And we are better for his sharing it with us.


Performing songwriters take note: If you tend to preface your songs with long introductions, do like Hassan El-Tayyab and write a book!


Please click on the link to preorder Composing Temple Sunrise (publication date 7/1/16) from Amazon

For more about Hassan El-Tayyab and his music

Book Cover for Composing Temple Sunrise: Overcoming Writer's Block at Burning Man by Hassan El-Tayyab

58th Grammy Awards

Nina Jo Smith & Ricky Kej @ Wouter and Ricky's reception for Indies Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman hosted a reception for indies at The Continental Club in downtown LA. I met some really great people there from all over. Dreamers and doers from Florida, DC, Japan, Austria....

Nina Jo at 58th Grammy Premiere Awards  The Premiere Awards take place before the televised awards ceremony. Awards were given in 75 categories including, as Rain Perry explained, all the categories we care most about... Americana, R&B, Producer....all things folkie with soul. Jason Isbell, Alabama Shakes, Mavis Staples... and I got to see The Mavericks perform!

Nina Jo in line for 58th Grammy Awards All dressed up and somewhere to go. I managed to find an entrance away from the Red Carpet. Oh well, Meghan Trainor walked right by....

Staples Center filling up before 58th Grammy AwardsSerious nosebleed seats. Entering when the floor was empty gave a bonafide sense of vertigo.

58th Grammy Awards photo collage featuring Adele, Alabama Shakes & the BB King Tribute Adele, Alabama Shakes and the BB King tribute. Everybody in that tribute played great, but Bonnie's searing slide guitar was stunning.

Review: "Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone" by Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams

Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Highway 20 Records


Grammy, Schmammie. This is the album of the year. Lucinda Williams has been an artist I've long admired and wanted to like but hadn't yet quite found my way into. Somehow the pieces hadn't fallen into place for me. But here she's in the zone, and by that I mean the Blaze Foley zone of heartrending melody, searing lyrics and undeniable soul without, we hope, paying quite the price he did. 

Band, mixes, mastering: impeccable. It's all that and a 12-string.

A Traveler's Gratitude

There is no way I could have made my tour work without the exceptional generosity of kind folks who fed and housed me along the way. Friends-of-friends (aka new friends), old friends, fellow musicians. You know who you are.

Poster for Northern California Women's Music Festival Benefit ShowCoffee Gallery, Sacramento, Exteriorllama, sheep, barn in a field, Summit ORCondiment Bowl, Red Chili Peppers in Oil, Portland ORLog Cabin Beams, Woodinville, WAMt. Rainier Sunset, Lake Washington in Foreground, Seattle, WABuddha with Autumn Flowers in the PinesMorning Glories with Dahlia, Eugene, ORNJ in profile, sillouhette

Leap Of Faith Tour Journal - Summit Oregon to Cottage Grove

The King Fire that started day 2 of my tour has continued to burn. So many acres, so many folks evacuated, so many firefighters working heroically, so many families awaiting their return. Just yesterday the fire was pronounced contained. But not out. LA Times Article

They've been on my mind the whole time.

On my return trip I'm enjoying being a fan. I returned to Summit, OR to see Red Moon Road at the Summit Community Center, a former church the community had rolled down a hill to relocate near the road.

Red Moon Road Trio Playing in old wooden church, Summit OR

In Eugene, OR I stayed with a friend from my martial arts days. This journey really has woven together many strands of my life. She had a remarkable garden with these fantastic morning glories. This one had a hardworking visitor.

Morning Glory with Bumblebee

Now I'm in Cottage Grove, updating all y'all while waiting to see Jonathan Byrd at Axe & Fiddle.

Jonathan Byrd Poster in window of Axe & Fiddle in Cottage Grove, ORGuitar and old-school elastic capo at Axe & Fiddle

I've been following his posts, love his storytelling, sharp wit, deft songwriting & strong playing. And everybody I tell that I've extended my trip for two days to catch his act says, "Oh, yeah. He's great. You have to see him." Some of them are folks who've shared a bill with them. So that's testimony I put stock in.


Leap Of Faith Tour Journal - Conor Byrne, Seattle

I like Seattle - it's beautiful, livable, all kinds of people; possibly more diverse than San Francisco is now. There's an open mic tonight in Seattle but the town is so revved up over the Seahawks game that I'm not sure there'lll be much of a turnout for it and not sure I'd want to be driving around after, win or lose. 

Anyway, I'm a bit tired after Saturday's show and last night's open mic (Conor Byrne - very nice.) 

Composite photo of Women at Conor Byrne Open Mic

Here's to the ladies of Conor Byrne Open Mic!

And the boys!

Colorworks trio onstage at Conor Byrne Open Mic


And me!

Nina Jo playing ukulele beneath big chandalier at Conor Byrne Pub

Leap Of Faith Tour Journal - Snoqualmie & Issaquah

Issaquah's great. Black Dog Arts Cafe open mic in Snoqualmie was fun and I loved meeting the people and playing the Sallel Grange monthly open mic in North Bend last night

Panoramic view of The Black Dog Arts Cafe Open Mic

.Front Window of Black Dog Arts Cafe, Snoqualmie, WAMt. Si, Snoqualmie, WA 

Playing the house concert at my friend's house was quite a trip too. We hadn't seen each other in decades. Met in High School, drove to Fairbanks, Alaska together in my VW, ca. 1973, parted ways in the mid 70s. We had some time to catch up and I was gratified to know we'd both made good lives. Jean Mann made a special guest appearance at the house concert too, adding her spirit and light to the mix.

Seated Buddha with Autumn Flowers Amidst Pine Treescomposite photo of house concert in Issaquah, WA

GPS Catfight

GPS Catfight


Somewhere South of Seattle


I exit I-5 North to enjoy a nice hot fishwich at Bessie’s Burgers. With orange juice. She has to double check the price (“I don’t think anybody’s ever ordered orange juice.”) But I soldier on, stick by my order and here it comes. I’m order #5. Fresh, cold orange juice. Nice hot square of fish on a tidy bun with marvelous sliced pickles.


Thinking it might be just about time to enter my destination into GPS, I gamely enter my friend Jean’s addy into Waze and head up the road. Soon the confident female voice directs me off the main highway into Yelm, saying I have another 1:54 to go. Now me, I’m thinking, that can’t be right, should be more like 50 minutes. So off I go onto the exit for Yelm, turn into the first parking lot I see and open Google maps. Closer to that 50 minute time frame. Great. Google map’s confident female voice directs me out of the parking lot and back toward the freeway.


And then, “Turn right at the roundabout…” “Turn left at the intersection.” “Right!” “Left!” And there I am, caught in the middle, pulling over to the curb. Well, climbing the curb slightly, a near-casualty of an honest to goodness Google/Waze GPS catfight.


How complicated can it be to get to Seattle, girls? Simmer down and let mama drive. With one swipe of my index finger, I settle the fight. Waze is swept off the screen, and I’m thinking, gee, it must really be hard to function hearing voices if they are yelling at eachother. Glad I have the technology to turn all but one off.


I make it to Jean’s cozy cottage safely within that 50 minute timeframe or thereabouts. In time for a cup of tea and relaxing walk in the woods.


No apps, humans, curbs or front tires were harmed in the making of this blog.

Large Conifer, Seattle, WA

Leap Of Faith Tour Journal - The Journey

Portland, OR

It’s an interesting journey, this one. My last trip to Portland area was to bury my half-brother, Brian. The trip before that was to bury my father, Roy. The only comfort was knowing Brian died after Roy, because for him to have lost a second son to a violent death (1: murder; 2: car wreck) would have broken him.

I really had no desire to return to Oregon after that. That makes this is a journey, not merely a trip.


When my great uncle Dan and his family lived in Portland we sometimes visited. My older cousin was wild and it was a relief to PLAY. 

Before one such visit I dreamed I roller-skated there from our home in Ojai. Driving north through the forested parts of I-5 looks a lot like that dream. As a kid I rode my skateboard more than my skates but somehow skates seemed more suited for the trip. You can’t argue with dream logic.

Leap Of Faith Tour Journal - Portland


Portland, OR

 Colorful Portland Row HousesBicycle hanging on Leaf-Shaped rack

Church basement

New snake

Excited hosts

Good turnout

Avery and Kelly are excellent

Paul and Ernest great on sound

Bob, lively host

Little old lady in black T-shirt with white lettering


With red cardigan, 4’ nuthin’, gray hair, wire rim glasses,

Singing Make Love Not War

Every woman, man and child.

Photo Collage of Nina Jo with crew at Ascension Episcopal Church, Portland, OR

Bob with New Snake for Sound System

Avery Hill and Nina Jo Smith performing

Avery Hill & Nina Jo - Photo by Elizabeth Campbell

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