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Gone Too Soon

One of our music writers remembers Amy and Derrick Ross, known as Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl

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What happens when creators die? The part of us that subconsciously relied on their creativity to better express our own emotions takes a jarring, painful hit. This was my experience last week when I heard of Amy and Derrick Ross's tragic passing. A one-two punch to the gut. A torn heart, twice over. A painful silence, punctuated by a relentless shedding of tears. This is what happens when creators die.

On stage, Amy and Derrick Ross were known as Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl. The moniker was lovingly borrowed from the prophetic and now-surreal opening line in a song by the influential Gillian Welch: "Nowhere man, and the whiskey girl / They loaded up for a weekend in the underworld..."

This loving and well-loved couple who made Bisbee their home played in Tucson regularly at all the usual venues, including standing gigs at Delectables on Fourth Avenue. An inseparable duo, they were connected in a way that forces me to reconsider my too-cynical feelings regarding the possibility of past-life connections. If you've seen them perform, you understand why I'm bothering to mention this palpable thing between them. Amy and Derrick had an other-worldly spiritual union that emanated from and flowed through their music.

The themes in their music were cleverly delivered and intensely relatable, their diverse fanbase reflecting the universality of their message. During a show at Plush about a year ago, I watched someone seeing them for the first time lean over and enthusiastically ask his friend, "Who the heck are these guys?!?" When they played, they had your full attention.

This unwavering and honest-to-goodness connection with their audience is why the collective grief in Tucson and beyond is too large to measure.

Music was their life. They made weddings more meaningful and birthday parties more memorable. They selflessly played charity events, and they made new, ardent fans at every single gig.

Amy Ross was a lyrical genius. Her hands effortlessly drifted back and forth along the length of the piano and her voice, delicately confident, was a conduit for delivering a dose of unyielding whimsy and joyful personal observation.

Derrick Ross had a chronic smile on his face while playing his guitar at Amy's side. Humbly taking a backseat when asked about his role in the band, insisting Amy was the driving force behind the magic they shared, his devotion to her was unmistakable.

Another line from the aforementioned Welch song captures their bond: "I'd take you down / Honey if I could / We'd find a place / In the sunshine / We'd be feeling good."

Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl were an integral, irreplaceable part of the Southern Arizona music scene. Their influence will undoubtedly live on through their incredible recordings. If you haven't yet, do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of their album Children of Fortune. Weave yourself into the fabric of their legacy by sharing it with everyone you know. As listeners, it's the least we can do to thank them for giving so much of themselves to us.

Amy and Derrick, I hope you have found your place in the eternal sunshine.

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