Tom Jones has gone back to his roots with his new album "Praise & Blame," but a leaked email from a label executive suggests high-level concern about the direction of the record.

Or does it?

The veteran Welsh singer has described the record of blues and spirituals as his "Johnny Cash album," a reference to Cash's successful "American Recordings" series that focused on covers in a stripped-back style.

"Praise & Blame," released July 26 in the U.K. and a day later in the U.S., includes covers of John Lee Hooker's "Burning Hell" as well as Bob Dylan's "What Good Am I." The early buzz about the 70-year-old's comeback with Island/Universal in Europe and Mercury Nashville in the U.S. has been positive.

But according to a leaked email from May 19 that has appeared in various media outlets, Island Records U.K. SVP David Sharpe wrote to colleagues demanding they "pull back this project immediately or get my money back."

"Imagine my surprise when I walked into the office this morning to hear hymns coming from your office - it could have been Sunday morning," Sharpe wrote to a colleague. "My initial pleasure came to an abrupt halt when I realized that Tom Jones was singing the hymns! I have just listened to the album in its entirety and want to know if this is some sick joke????"

The email added: "We did not invest a fortune in an established artist for him to deliver 12 tracks from the common book of prayer [Book of Common Prayer]. Having lured him from EMI, the deal was that you would deliver a record of upbeat tracks along the lines of 'Sex Bomb' and 'Mama Told Me [Not To Come]..."

"As venerable and interesting as Tom's story is, this is not what was agreed and certainly not what we paid for. Who put him with a 'folk' producer and who authorized that he should go off on this tangent...," the email continued. "Please don't give me the art over commerce argument, it's run its course... what are you thinking when he went all spiritual?"

Britain's biggest tabloid the Sun ran the story on page three today (July 5) after it appeared in Sunday newspapers and the story has spread.

But the timing of the 'leak' is certainly suspicious, and it seems curious that a senior executive would have no clue about the direction of the album. The producer of the album, Ethan John, is hardly a controversial choice, either, having worked with Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne and Ryan Adams.

Some have, understandably, suggested this 'leak' is actually a deliberate attempt to position Jones as an authentic artist doing what he does best, while ignoring the wishes of record label executives.

Whatever Jones' musical direction in recent years, Island would also surely see an opportunity for a reinvention, especially one that might appeal to an older market and therefore probably be more likely to get stocked by mass merchants. This is the label that released an album by Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends, a group of pub singers from Cornwall who belt out sea shanties, that went top 10 in May.

Jones' most recent studio set certainly had a modern sound, but failed to perform. "24 Hours," helmed by dance producers Future Cut, was released through Parlophone/EMI in the U.K. and S Curve in the U.S. It debuted at No. 32 in the U.K. in November 2008, and peaked at No. 105 on the Billboard 200 in December 2008.

Sharpe apparently stuck by his comments after the email leaked, saying he "paid for a Mercedes" and ended up with a "hearse."

Universal has not commented on the email.