Sometimes folk music can take itself a bit seriously. There are a lot of drowned sisters and poisoned knights, lots of murder and longing. It's a bit of a relief, then, when a duo like GOOD HABITS come along. They are full of sunshine and stories, full of friendliness and fun. They blossom like dungaree-clad sunflowers. 
Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw formed during a time when they were “happily stranded” in New Zealand over lockdown. What started as an impromptu tour became a two-year hiatus where songs were written, gigs were played and a formidable duo emerged. They return to Downend as they tour their brilliant new album Quarter Life, and effortlessly charm the whole place.
In truth it would be pretty hard to argue that what Good Habits do is "folk", in the strictest sense. There are no songs of death, instead Schwarz and Shaw shine their jazz-y, pop-y sunlight on songs of love, of vague uncertainty, of small earthquakes. They also play some wonderfully inventive covers too, and there's not a trad.arr amongst them.
Sunday, taken from Quarter Life, is suitably sleepy and sinuous, a reminder that taking a day of rest is a very fine thing. Schwarz's cello has a lovely, gentle buzz and is joined by Shaw's accordion in a sun-dappled sway, the musical equivalent of a lazy breakfast in bed. Eyelids are slowly prised open with a stomp-box and Schwarz's fantastic voice until the two of them hit a rise-and-shine groove at the end. The easy warmth that they exude is utterly infectious, they create a world where everything is going to be OK.
Even when singing about an earthquake, Good Habits manage to sound upbeat. The Earth Has Moved has an irresistible pop zing, driven by flicked cello strings and a bass-y accordion hum with Schwarz, again, soothing away the difficulties of life. Her voice is homely and tender.
Shaw is a restless accordion player, he almost never lets his instrument sit idle, even between songs it breathes and hums, impatient to tell its tales. On Itchy Feet it helps to create a see-saw groove and then swoops, full of romance, over the domestic romance of Fridge Photos. He really let's fly on Guinness Face/2 Minutes More, showing an impressively jaunty virtuosity, fingers flying across the keyboard, celebrating foam-y smiles and the increased daylight that you get at this time of year.
The joy that Good Habits bring is most obvious in the cover versions that they choose. Each is delivered with love and a "hey look at this" wide-eyed wonder. Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill is, simply, lovely, a swooning, languid take on something that swoons already. Praise You stops being a breakbeat banger and, instead, is an intimate adoration. Shaw and Schwarz gather around the cello and beat out the rhythm with chopsticks across the strings. They are so close to one another that the object of their praise is obvious. Finally, She Bangs the Drums, the Stone Roses classic, seems to bring together everything that makes Good Habits great. Cello and accordion set up a cosy thrum and then Schwarz sings up a storm, her affection for this Manc anthem utterly obvious.
Sharing the Good Habits’ love of a jumpsuit/dungaree thing is BILLIE MAREE, a singer of "folk-y-ish songs" about friendship and humanity that have a slightly more wintery feel than the sunshine which will follow. A Devonian singer-songwriter with a glorious voice, Billie Maree inspires absolute pin-drop attention. On Whale Eyes, their voice is deep and meditative, a simple acoustic line tracing countless strands back to Celtic folk traditions. On My Body, My Home the contemporary is, again, mixed with the traditional and it’s Billie Maree’s voice that will live long in the memory. 
In a world that can feel a bit bleak some days, Good Habits exist to spread some sunshine. They were very welcome indeed.
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Barry Savell