The clamour for entry to Willy Mason’s sold-out show at the Green Door Store was in evidence before the doors had opened. One fan carried a plea for spare tickets on a sign around their neck, personifying the exclusivity of a gig with a capacity less than a sixth of his next stop, at London’s Roundhouse this weekend.

That show will be an exploration of why people sing, and Mason set himself as singalong leader tonight. A few packing the floor were compelled to raise their voice in sheer, beery joy at hearing some of the highlights from the New York singer’s three studio albums in such a small space.

But Mason’s own voice – a crystalline bear’s growl, solemnly casting fire stories in oak and whisky – is a wracked element to which communal accompaniment lends itself. The confessional, better-together tone of the lyrics always helps, even if, as on We Can Be Strong, the sentiments can verge on mushiness.

On Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man, Mason – hair tied back, gently sweating – squinted at his notebook, held by an audience member, the better to sing the romanticisms of a figure he has occasionally been compared with.

The centrepiece, though, was the inclusion of five members of the Deep Throat Choir, creating intricate, unusual harmonies around Mason’s central echo, guiding the hymnal sway of a crowd they had been part of minutes before.

Mason is no folk snob, accommodating a drinking number (Roger Miller’s Chug-a-Lug, from 1964) before a cheer-a-thon decided the final two songs. “‘Got a train to catch’ – I haven’t written that one yet”, drolled the singer in response to one audience shout.

The winners, eventually, were So Long and Shadows in the Dark. Poetic and melancholic, they felt like closing capsules of Mason’s charismatic craft.