THE beauty of the Sherling Studio at Lighthouse is that it is an intimate venue where the audience can get close up to the performers.

Seating a maximum of around 120 people, the three-sided auditorium offers a different perspective than a traditional theatre setting.

This was the case with Sarah Gillespie, the acclaimed singer-songwriter whose style has been likened to both Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones (and many more).

She was here performing material from her latest studio album, her fifth, the Berlin-recorded Half Cut, which was released in February on her own Pastiche Records label.

Appearing under the Studio Jazz banner, the London-born but American influenced Gillespie’s music is really also a mixture of other genres – folk, blues, country, Americana, poetry and more.

And it provided the perfect, undemanding but wholly relevant soundtrack to the Friday night of a bank holiday weekend.

Internationally renowned Gillespie, who runs mentoring sessions for up and coming artistes, is also a renowned expressionist artist with her painting inspired by songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and even Ian Dury.

But here, after a slightly underwhelming Q&A session, she was concentrating on the music, mixing her original tunes with streetwise lyrics.

Gillespie is a marvellous, nuanced performer, working the mic perfectly to extract every ounce of passion and richness from her voice. She sits throughout, occasionally slurping from a glass of red wine.

And she’s funny, occasionally fiery, and her tales of a life lived – from being delirious in a New Mexico hotel room to the gastronomic perversity of buying a huge box of cakes at a motorway services – both delighted and informed.

Highlights of an entertaining first set included delving deep into the new album for the murder ballad Mollie Of The Sea Salt, plus 18th Holy Curse and title track Half Cut, plus the older, hauntingly beautiful tribute to her late mother, Glory Days.

Her band, understated Ruth Goller on bass and energetic James Maddren on drums, was missing the ill pianist Tom Cawley. Luckily, the perfect replacement was available in the shape of the incomparable James Pearson, music director at Ronnie Scott’s.

This acclaimed pianist was (so we were told) hearing some of the songs for the first time during the performance, yet his playing was mesmeric. It was an utter privilege to be in the same room as him.

The second half really got going with the epic oldie How The Mighty Fall (minus the harmonica), followed by Red Winds, the Dylanesque Million Moons and the upbeat, effervescent Stalking Juliet.

As to comparisons, that’s difficult, as one moment it was Sinead O’Connor, the next Tracy Chapman, then Patti Smith, even Cleo Laine, sometimes even in the space of one song. Needless to say, Gillespie has carved her own niche and any correlation with other singers is really a tribute to her own flexibility.

She may be leftfield in so many respects but deserves being welcomed into the main arena with much wider acclaim. She left us with the fructose rush of Sugar Sugar and we all trooped out into the warm night with a spring in our steps.