Chris Cain has some loyal admirers.

A triple threat as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, the San Jose-raised Cain has earned the esteem of his peers in the blues circuit and beyond, an embrace evidenced by a coterie of illustrious musicians who don't hesitate to swoop down and shower him with love.

Take his latest album, 2010's "So Many Miles," which features Cain originals that unfold like strange and dark tales from a forgotten Steely Dan session. It had been years since he put out a CD, and with the recording industry in disarray, prospects didn't look good for a new release until he got a call from producer and drummer Patrick Ford, owner of Blue Rock'It Records.

Top blues guitarist Chris Cain performs with Blue Wednesday June 30 at Jazz on the Plazz.
Top blues guitarist Chris Cain performs with Blue Wednesday June 30 at Jazz on the Plazz.

"Patrick has always been such a sweetheart," says Cain, 58, who performs with his potent quartet Friday at the Poor House Bistro, and Jan. 3 at Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco. "When I haven't had a record out for a few years, he'd call and say come and make one on Rock'It."

Even though he'd put out four previous albums on the label, Cain feared that the new batch of songs with vivid narratives was unlikely to pique Ford's interest. Not only did Ford dig the new material, he let his younger brother, guitar legend Robben Ford, know about the upcoming session.

Robben Ford brought in his band to serve as Cain's rhythm section, with Ford himself handling rhythm guitar duties. Guitar star Larry Carlton also came by the studio for a guest appearance.

"None of this was planned when I started making the album," Cain says. "Robben played his butt off, working 14 hours a day playing all these rhythm parts and making suggestions for arrangements. And then Larry Carlton got involved. It was such a beautiful gift. All those guys put in so much love."

For his upcoming gigs, Cain is performing with his working band featuring keyboardist Greg Rahn, drummer Mick Mestek, and bass guitarist Steve Evans. It's a tough, flexible combo that can handle Cain's scorching numbers and his more laid back jazz-inflected tunes.

While most blues artists find a niche and stick to it, Cain has distinguished himself by mastering numerous styles and instruments, though his discography has yet to capture his full range of passions. In another case of his peers coming together to showcase his singular skills, he's been performing in the Ray Charles Project, an all-star combo that plays at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage on Feb. 15.

Over the past two years, the group has featured an impressive cast of players, and the Freight gig brings together a sensational lineup with Santana vocalist Tony Lindsay, soul diva Linda Tillery, bassist Dewayne Pate and drummer Deszon Claiborne. Pianist-organist David K. Mathews launched the project when he felt that Cain wasn't getting his due.

After long stints with Tower of Power and Etta James, Mathews landed a coveted spot in Santana, and he quickly sought to boost the career of a similarly wide-ranging artist.

"There's something otherworldly about how he's assimilated the styles of so many different artists, be it on guitar, piano, vocals or saxophone," Mathews wrote in an email. "At times, it can be eerie, as if that long-departed artist is in the room with you. It's like a seance, and it's made my spine tingle more than once."

Cain credits his music-loving parents with exposing him to Ray Charles early and often. He never figured he'd have a chance to share his love of Brother Ray until Mathews put the project together.

"That's another gift that came to me," Cain says. "I do that at home every day, trying to sound like Ray. In my family, that was one of the major things that everybody agreed on. I saw him a million times back in the day, and the opportunity to get up and play some of those tunes is a dream come true."

Now that people are starting to get a sense of Cain's capacious capabilities, he's getting ready to share some new music.

"I've got about six records that are completely different, things I've been working on the last six or seven years," he says. "I shoot for stuff that's over my head. I'll get my butt kicked a little bit, but I learn so much in the process. There are so many types of things that I love, there's not even enough hours in the day to get to it all."

Contact Andrew Gilbert at jazzscribe@aol.com.

Chris Cain Band

When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Poor House Bistro, 91 S. Autumn St., San Jose
Tickets: No cover,
408-292-5837,
www.poorhousebistro.com
Also: 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Jan. 3, Biscuits and Blues, 401 Mason St., San Francisco, $20, 415-292-2583, www.biscuitsandblues.com