Los Angeles: Casey James was cut Wednesday from "American Idol," leaving Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze to duke it out in the finale of the popular Fox singing competition next week.
James, the long-haired 27-year-old musician from Fort Worth, Texas, was revealed to have received the fewest viewer votes after his ho-hum performances on Tuesday.
"I can`t believe it, man," gushed James. "I`m so thankful for the opportunity."
James consistently gratified the judges throughout the contest with his bluesy stylings but never seemed to wow the panel, except the time when Kara DioGuardi asked the hunky Texan to remove his shirt during his audition.
But his fate seemed sealed Tuesday when Simon Cowell compared his rendition of Eric Hutchinson`s "OK, It`s Alright With Me" to a salad.
James` departure means either Bowersox, the earthy 24-year-old musician from Toledo, Ohio, or DeWyze, the bashful 24-year-old paint sales clerk from Mount Prospect, Ill., will be crowned "Idol" next Wednesday.
DeWyze told host Ryan Seacrest that he`s "never wanted to win more than I do right now," while Bowersox thanked the judges for their continued support.
"Everything that you guys have said has been helpful," beamed Bowersox.
The duo had long been considered to be the front-runners of the ninth season, never appearing as one of the show`s bottom vote-getters. Bowersox solidified her finale spot Tuesday with Melissa Etheridge`s "Come To My Window" and Paul McCartney`s "Maybe I`m Amazed," while DeWyze delighted with Lynyrd Skynyrd`s "Simple Man" and Leonard Cohen`s "Hallelujah."
"It`s just totally different than I would ever thought it would have been," DeWyze said of the experience.
The finale comes during a slump for the aging but popular Fox franchise. Seacrest revealed that more than 47 million votes were cast this week for Bowersox, DeWyze and James. At this point in the competition last year, the host announced more than 88 million votes were received for Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert and Kris Allen, who went on to win the eighth season.