When this came out, I felt like I was swimming against the stream because I liked it, quite a bit actually, and it wasn't necessarily all that well-received. I think the song writing is very strong, mostly, and if I remember right, this was the album that she changed out most if not all of her band. The previous few albums, the lead guitar player, think his name is Doug Pettibone, was, IMO, an over-player, a wanker, who distracted from the songs with his gymnastics. I saw her here during that time frame, and my opinion was reinforced. Any rate, Blessed was more cohesive and just generally stronger than the previous few efforts.
By the way, I've only listened to her new release once so far, and it's got a long way to go to win me over. Getting strong reviews, but her vocals are just odd throughout, very mannered and different than what I'm accustomed to. It's almost like she's got a mouth full of marbles, or is shit-faced and slurring badly. Maybe I'll warm up to it if I spend some more time with it.
Funny, it was the lukewarm reviews that kept me from discovering this album till now. I'd read a review and it would slide down my 'must buy' list - it was the low risk nature ($) of Tidal that showed me what I was missing. I see what you mean about the cohesiveness here where the band is solid but the delivery and emotion of her lyrics truly soar - it's been a while since a album jarred me like this.
I don't have The Ghosts of Highway 20 yet but will probably wait till I give it a good listen on Tidal (when it's available) before buying - I did buy Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone and have only gotten through it a time or 2, just not clicking with me yet.
No thread on folk/Americana can get too far without a mention of Canada's premier roots label, Stony Plain. If you're not familiar, a good place to start is "30 Years Stony Plain", a 2-CD set (with a DVD!) with Ian Tyson, Doug Sahm, Duke Robillard, Maria Muldaur, King Biscuit Boy and lots more. A must in any collection.