“Stories of corruption, crime and killing:” 5 Drive-By Truckers songs that would make great movies
Sample lyric: “Stories of corruption, crime and killing, yes it’s true / Greed and fixed elections, guns and drugs and whores and booze.”
The pitch: Goodfellas goes south
The story: Drive-By Truckers (performing Friday at Pabst Theater) are born storytellers, penning songs that depict the wayward lives of troubled people with visually evocative language and a cinematic sensibility. There’s no better example than “Cottonseed;” you can practically see the Skynyrd-scored flashbacks to the seductively disreputable “dirty south” of the ’70s in this chilling first-person account of all the bad deeds committed by an unapologetic, stone-cold gangster who bought a brand new Cadillac anytime he pleased “and put more lawmen in the ground than Alabama put cottonseed.”
Potential personnel: Harry Dean Stanton has that special mix of oily charm and restrained-yet-still-poisonous malevolence required of the shadowy lead character in “Cottonseed.”
2. “The Wig He Made Her Wear”
Sample lyric: “He didn’t show up for service that Wednesday night / The congregation knew something weren’t right / Blood on the bed when they opened the door / The preacher was dead on the bedroom floor.”
The pitch: The Night Of The Hunter meets The Burning Bed
The story: A twisted tale about what “seemed like the perfect family” that ends in tragedy marred by kinky sex and murder, “The Wig He Made Her Wear” is a disturbing and darkly witty satire about the secrets that “good” people hide from the world. It begins with a woman going on trial for killing her preacher husband and ends with her telling the world about how he made her do “things that made her feel so ashamed.”
Potential personnel: Rob Zombie is an ideal choice to direct this story of deviance and queasily off-putting humor that aggressively upends so-called civilized society.
3. “Sink Hole”
Sample lyric: “He thinks I ain’t got a lick of sense cause I talk slow and my money’s spent / Now, I ain’t the type to hold it against, but he better stay off my farm.”
The pitch: The dark side of Hee-Haw
The story: The protagonist of “Sink Hole” presents himself as a good ol’ boy straight from central casting, talking about how his farm “has stood through five tornadoes, droughts, floods, and five tornadoes.” But his disarming gap-toothed drawl hides the desperation of a man with murder in his heart: Faced with the prospect of losing his home, he coldly schemes to bury his banker “in the old sink hole” before going to church on Sunday, where he pledges “to look the preacher in the eye.”
Potential personnel: Kyle Chandler has already shown he can portray a decent-but-imperfect small-town southerner with grace and subtlety on Friday Night Lights, and he could definitely pull it off again for “Sink Hole.”
4. “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac”
Sample lyric: “If Mr. Phillips was the only man that Jerry Lee still would call sir / Then I guess Mr. Phillips did all of y’all about as good as you deserve / He did just what he said he was gonna do and the money came in sacks / New contracts and Carl Perkins’ Cadillac.”
The pitch: The man behind Walk The Line
The story: With the possible exceptions of Berry Gordy and Clive Davis, Sam Phillips of Sun Records is the single most important music executive in rock history, though he’s chiefly remembered in “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” as a man who made a lot of other, more famous people rich. Sidestepping the pitfall of most biopics—which attempt to pack too much story into a two-hour movie—“Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” focuses on Sun’s mid-’50s prime and Phillips’ promise to buy a new car for the first artist on his label to score a gold record.
Potential personnel: “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” is more of a period drama populated with famous rockers than a traditional biopic, so it needs someone with an eye for the details and poetry of southern life, like David Gordon Green.
5. “Checkout Time In Vegas”
Sample lyric: “A bloody nose, empty pockets, a rented car with a trunk full of guns / It ain’t true that the sun don’t rise in Vegas, I’ve seen it once.”
The pitch: No Country For Old Men in Sin City
The story: Like a Cormac McCarthy novel, “Checkout Time In Vegas” conveys a lot of information very economically. The laconic protagonist recounts the aftermath of an apparent robbery gone wrong, which ends with the murder of two people; the killer anticipates that “they’ll be after me by the time the buffet closes.” He doesn’t seem in a hurry, though.
Potential personnel: Michael Shannon could bring the seen-it-all weariness he showed in Shotgun Stories to the role of a bad man who’s willing to do what it takes to stay out of jail, even if he’s not happy about it.