Jimmy was born in Frobost, on the island of South Uist, where he lived until he was ten years old when his parents moved to ‘The Fair Toun o’ Perth’. It is probable that it was these early years, when Jimmy was bilingual in English and Gaelic, that influenced his later understated singing style. When he sings a song Jimmy is telling a story with no need to dramatise or over-emphasise. In this respect he has all the attributes of a traditional Gaelic singer, the only difference being that he sings in English, or to be more precise, in Scots.
Throughout his singing career, Jimmy has chosen to sing mainly unaccompanied, allowing greater credence to the lyrics of his songs, although, on rare occasions, he allows himself to be accompanied by people whose musicianship he trusts.
Early in Jimmy’s singing career there was a period when competing in the Mod would have been a logical progression for him to make. However, after the conductor of the Gaelic Choir he had joined in Perth asked him to stop using grace notes as she thought they were “not suitable for Gaelic songs”, he decided against this.
One of the amazing aspects of Jimmy’s singing career, which spans over thirty-five years, is that in spite of the lure of fame and popular acclaim he has continued in full-time occupation as a joiner and draughtsman. During periods when family life made demands on his time, Jimmy readily transferred his love of song to a back burner and devoted his attention to where he felt it belonged, i.e. to his family.
The divisions in definition between traditional singer and revivalist are sterile when applied to Jimmy Hutchison. All singers have to learn songs from sources other than on their mother’s knee and when presented with a good song Jimmy will learn it, adapt it, then reproduce it as though it has been transferred to him via his mother’s milk. In the singing of Jimmy Hutchison you may hear material previously sung by the giants of the Scottish tradition such as Jeanie Robertson and Jimmy McBeath, along with songs from lesser knowns such as the London Irishman, Mike Smythe and the Canadian, Stan Rogers. All their influences are there.