Jimmy Hutchison was born at Frobost, on the Isle of South Uist. His mother was from the island, his father from Glasgow. There he lived until the age of ten, when the family moved to Perth. He was raised bi-lingual, speaking both Gaelic and English.
Hutchison was drawn to the traditional music of the area surrounding his new home, learning the songs of great source singers like Jeannie Robertson, Jimmie McBeath and the Stewarts of Blair. This education from these masters of tradition, is no doubt a huge part of his expertise as a Scots singer. But his gentle, understated, instantly listenable style of singing has a quality of Gaelic song – where the story comes first, with everything else in service to that.
In any case, he’s been an integral part of the scene and tradition for decades, particularly with the Traditional Music and Song Association. He was at the TMSA’s very first festival in 1966, and was the first winner of the Willie Scott Cup for men’s traditional singing when the festival introduced competitions in 1969. Forty seven years later, he won the same cup at the 2016 Kirriemuir festival. That same year, he appeared in the lineup of the 2016 Celtic Connections opening concert – The Carrying Stream – a celebration of fifty years of the TMSA; singing to over two thousand people in a sold out Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
So far, he’s produced only one album- Corachree. Singing almost entirely unaccompanied, it is a display of mastery of his craft. The variety in the songs reflect his background – Scots from these great tradition bearers, songs learned from time spent in Ireland, and one in Gaelic – A Pheigi a Ghràidh – perhaps a nod to earlier times. As Alisdair Clark wrote for The Scotsman: “He sings with a craftsmanship and intensity that make the senses tingle.”
For his entire singing career, he’s had another full time career – as a joiner and draughtsman. Despite not going in to music full time, he’s managed a great deal over that 35 years- recording for the BBC and performing across the UK and Ireland.
Hutchison’s knowledge and understanding of tradition, and connection to a past generation of singers, saw him in demand as a contributor to the School of Scottish Studies archive, giving interviews for many of it’s most eminent researchers, including: Aillie Munro, Peter Cooke, Fred E Kent, Margaret Bennett, Thomas Burton, and Stephanie Smith Perrin. He contributed a wide range of songs from Scotland, as well as one from much further afield – Janis Joplin’s acapella classic, Mercedes Benz!
Now based in Newburgh, Hutchison is active in continuing another tradition- hand loom weaving. Weaving in one form or another was once a huge industry across Scotland – including Hutchison’s native Uist. But modern times have seen these processes becoming automated, or production moving abroad. He first taught himself to weave in the 1960s, continuing in his spare time until 2014, when he and apprentice Erika Douglas began Newburgh Handloom Weaving, devoting his energies to taking another tradition from strength to strength.